Dish Taking Sports Out

Three Dish Network satellite dishes are displayed. Weeks after a fee dispute darkened 164 Nexstar Media Group television stations, the mega TV station owner and DISH TV settled, restoring Nexstar station signals to those stations, which include local stations WBRE and WYOU.

Weeks after a fee dispute darkened 164 Nexstar Media Group television stations, the mega TV station owner and DISH TV settled, restoring Nexstar station signals to those stations, which include local stations WBRE and WYOU.

Deadline.com reported the deal was announced just after 1 a.m. on Christmas Day.

Financial terms of the multi-year deal were not disclosed, according to deadline. The agreement restores Nexstar station signals in 120 markets and 42 states to Dish for the first time since they went dark on Dec. 2.

Both sides reached a deal much sooner than some experts predicted. TV analyst Phillip Swann predicted last month that the standoff could continue for weeks, if not months.

He and a local economics professor cited several reasons for the stalled negotiations.

Nexstar can bargain for higher fees from DISH TV because of the many choices for consumers, said Iordanis Petsas, Ph.D., professor of economics at the University of Scranton and chair of its Department of Economics and Finance.

In turn, DISH also can hold out for a lower fee because many of its customers have fewer options and can pay lower fees, Swann said.

“There are choices out there. Competition is a good thing,” Petsas said.

There are several ways to distribute television programming, from cable to streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix to satellite.

“You have cable,” Petsas said. “As long as you have a lot of choices, these TV networks can negotiate for cable.”

He said there are more than 800 cable companies in the United States. They account for two-thirds of all television viewing in the country. TV networks also have other sources of revenue, such as commercials.

“They have ways to absorb any potential increase in prices,” he said.

“This market is a bargaining market,” Petsas said. “Some people might not agree. It’s free market.”

DISH also has its own strategies for negotiating lower fees.

Swann wrote in his online column last month that “Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has acknowledged publicly that blackouts can be profitable for his company because it allows Dish to withhold fees while not carrying the channels.”

Swann added that Ergen has said taking a hardline stance in the negotiations would ultimately reduce the payment if and when his company settles. Swann noted the company does not always settle — Dish has been without HBO and Cinemax for 25 months.

“Both factors allow Dish to keep subscribers’ monthly bills lower than its rivals,” Swann wrote.

The analyst also noted that DISH has focused more on building a subscriber base in rural areas. Those areas are more dependent upon satellite service for multi-channel television because high-speed Internet and cable TV service often are not available there. He said the Federal Communication Commission this year estimated that 21 million rural Americans still lack access to high-speed Internet, though some experts believe the number is higher

That means those customers are less likely to cancel DISH during a dispute.

“Plus, like DIRECTV, Dish requires a two-year contract which comes with an early termination penalty of $20 a month for every month left in the agreement,” Swann wrote. “That also makes it less likely for Dish subscribers to cancel during a fee fight.”

Swann said he believed that for those and other reasons, the DISH dispute with Nexstar would last for weeks, if not months.

Petsas cautioned, though, that with both sides blaming each other and the negotiations dragging on, the consumers could have lost out on important information related to COVID-19.

The area’s other local television channel, WNEP-TV, was available again last month on DIRECTV following an agreement between the AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, and WNEP owner TEGNA Inc.

The agreement ended a dispute of several weeks.

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