Dish Network subscribers woke up this morning with a pretty sizable hole in their channel lineup. Due to a contract dispute with Turner Broadcasting, the Dish faithful lost several Turner properties, including notable staples like CNN, CNN en Espanol and Cartoon Network, as well as deeper content including Turner Classic Movies, Boomerang, TruTV, and HLN.
“Dish has had a productive relationship with Turner Networks for many years,” said Dish senior VP of programming Warren Schlichting in a statement today. “We regret the service disruption to our customers, and remain committed to reaching an agreement that promptly returns this content to DISH’s programming lineup.”
“In the past year, Dish has successfully renewed agreements with many large content providers,” said Schlichting, adding that he was confident a deal would be struck soon.
The loss of content is a result of a breakdown in contract negotiations, which has reportedly taken place over a period of months with no compromise in sight. While blaming Turner for pulling the channels, Dish’s statement appeared hopeful a deal would soon be struck.
Turner’s take on the dispute was less optimistic. In its response to the blackout, Turner explicitly called Dish out, claiming the satellite provider had “unilaterally” decided to pull the content.
“Despite our best efforts, we were unable to reach an agreement with Dish Network,” the statement read. “Turner has worked diligently for months to come to a fair agreement including multiple extensions and compromises, and it’s unfortunate that Dish is once again operating in a disruptive manner that takes away networks and programming from their customers. We are hopeful our counterparts will return to the negotiating table, and we’ll get a deal completed.”
Dish has been in the midst of several content negotiations recently, including a lenghthy legal dispute with Disney, which ended with a deal that would allow Dish to option several Disney properties, including ESPN, ABC, and Disney content for its forthcoming OTT (over the top) network, a stand alone Web TV network designed to appeal to cord cutters.
During that negotiation, Dish leveraged its AutoHop feature, which allows subscribers to auto-skip commercials for network programming during next-day viewing, as a bargaining chip. In exchange for unprecedented online access to Disney’s cache of content, Dish agreed to delay AutoHop programming for Disney-owned ABC for three days proceeding the original air date.
Such disputes between content providers and cable and satellite services have become more frequent as of late, as the entire broadcast paradigm continues to evolve. Turner, is owned by Time Warner, which went through a similar content blackout of its own in the summer of 2013, which saw CBS pulling its content — including CBS, Showtime, and The Movie Channel — from Time Warner cable subscribers for over a month.
We’ll keep tabs on this story as it develops, and will update as more details arise.