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Dish customers lose CBS, Thanksgiving football in fee dispute

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Dish Network satellite dishes at an apartment complex in Palo Alto, Calif.

Dish Network Corp. subscribers face a Thanksgiving weekend without CBS shows including football matchups like the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys versus Los Angeles Chargers after the network’s programming was pulled from the service over a fee dispute.

At midnight Monday, CBS and local stations in 18 cities were discontinued, according to the companies. CBS called the move another example of Dish punishing customers instead of negotiating a new contract. Dish said it is “regrettable and unnecessary that CBS is bringing its greed in to the homes of millions of families this Thanksgiving.”

Blackouts and the threat of blackouts have increased as media companies and pay-TV providers get squeezed by new players and tussle over monthly subscriber revenue. Dish has lost 468,000 TV subscribers this year as people switch to streaming options like Netflix. CBS has fared better, with revenue up 1.3 percent as fees from viewers and deals to license programs have more than countered falling audience ratings and ad sales.

The standoff comes at one of the more popular viewing times of the year, featuring big college football games Thursday, Friday and Saturday in addition to an NFL doubleheader on Sunday.

Dish is offering customers free antenna installation so they can pick up local TV broadcasts including CBS and continue to receive the rest of Dish’s channel offering.

Some blackouts have dragged on. Dish, for example, ended a three-month blackout of Tribune Media Co.’s broadcasts in September 2016.

Both companies face risks if the blackout continues. CBS stands to lose the advertising that Dish’s 13.2 million users generate, along with subscriber fees. And Dish faces backlash from angry subscribers who can’t get the most-watched U.S. TV network, and may already be looking at ways to cut their TV bills and find alternative sources of video entertainment.

Both Dish and CBS have tried to offset their eroding base of conventional pay-TV viewers by starting online TV services. Dish offers Sling TV, a $20 a month, 30-channel live TV service that doesn’t include CBS. And CBS sells internet-based live TV and on demand programs through its CBS All Access, for $5.99 with ads or $9.99 without ads.

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