Dish vs. Fox: Who's Losing?
Washington, D.C. (October 12,
The fee fight between Dish Network and Fox Networks is now in
its 12th day with no end in sight. Both companies have escalated
the rhetoric in recent days, blaming the other for Dish
subscribers being denied access to the Fox-owned FX, National
Geographic Channel and 19 regional sports channels.
At this point, there would appear to be no winners or losers in
the battle over whether Dish should provide additional
compensation to Fox to carry the channels. (Their old fee
agreement expired on September 30.) The one exception, of
course: the Dish viewers who can't watch some of their favorite
channels; they are clear losers.
However, another loser is rapidly emerging from the fog of loud
charges and hysterical ad campaigns. And that loser is Dish
The satcaster may be justified in saying that Fox is asking for
an "excessive" fee to carry the FX, etc. It may even be right to
suggest that Fox is trying to scare Dish viewers with the threat
that they will lose their local Fox channels on November 1 if a
new agreement is not reached for those channels as well.
But Dish is in a precarious position in the fight. The company
has a long history of getting entangled in nasty legal scraps
with industry partners, be it TiVo (six-year DVR patent war
continues); Disney (Dish recently removed four Disney HD
channels after the two sides could not reach a new programming
pact; the channels are still off the air.); MSG (another
programming fight has forced Dish to remove the sports channel
from its lineup); Voom (Dish dumped Voom's HD channels from the
air although it was a minority stake holder; a lawsuit ensued).
And I could cite perhaps a couple dozen more cases over the last
You see, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen
believes in playing hardball at the negotiating table. It often
appears that Dish doesn't mind denying its customers a favorite
channel for awhile if it means a few more dollars in its
But I have to think that many Dish subscribers are losing
patience with this approach. How do you subscribe to a TV
service that doesn't give you confidence that your favorite
channels will be there when you tune them in. (Or, in the case
of TiVo, it's possible a judge will rule that Dish must disable
its DVRs at some point.)
The longer the battle with Fox, the more likely that Dish
subscribers will bolt and sign up with a different TV provider,
such as DIRECTV. And if Dish doesn't sign an agreement to keep
the Fox affiliates, it could be a disaster. Again, Dish viewers
can only take so much.
This is a case where Ergen needs to put his ego and even his
principles on the shelf and make a deal with Fox. He doesn't
have the luxury not to.
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