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Dish customers have streaming options to watch CBS during Hearst blackout

There are a number of cheap — and, in some cases, free — ways to get CBS stations dropped by Dish.

There are a number of cheap — and, in some cases, free — ways to get CBS stations dropped by Dish.

A dispute between satellite TV platform Dish Network and local broadcaster Hearst Television has entered its second week, and there appears to be no end in sight.

Caught in the middle are millions of customers across the country who have lost access to one or more local broadcast station owned by Hearst, making local news, live sports like National Football League games and prime-time programming unavailable to Dish satellite customers while the dispute rages on.

As is typical in situations like this, the dispute centers around programming-related fees that Dish must pay to broadcasters like Hearst in exchange for the legal right to offer their stations to Dish satellite customers. An agreement between the two sides lapsed earlier this month, and with no new agreement in place, Dish was forced to remove the stations.

Why wasn’t a new agreement hammered out? Dish blames Hearst for this, saying the broadcaster demanded higher fees in exchange for the rights to offer its local TV channels to Dish customers. Dish says this request would ultimately have trickled down to customers in the form of higher monthly bills, something the company says it works hard to prevent.

Hearst doesn’t dispute that higher fees are to blame for the situation. But the company says its fee requests are reasonable and reflect the fair market value of its programming — and it blames Dish for offering what it feels are below-market rates for the channels.

The situation is especially precarious for Dish customers in parts of Iowa and Kentucky, as those subscribers have now lost access to their local CBS station — which means no Sunday morning and afternoon NFL games, no reality shows like “Big Brother” and no local news from one of their community’s most-trusted sources of information.

Currently, Dish customers do not have access to the following Hearst-owned CBS affiliates:

  • KCCI (Channel 8) in Des Moines, Iowa
  • WLKY (Channel 32) in Louisville, Kentucky

If there is a silver lining in all of this, it’s that the dispute between Dish and Hearst comes at a time when viewers in those areas have a number of different options to get access to their local news and CBS prime-time and sports programming once again. Some of these options are even free.

If you’re in this situation, here are a few ways to watch live programming from your local Hearst-owned CBS station while the dispute with Dish Network continues:


The home screen of Paramount Plus appears on a television set.
The home screen of Paramount Plus appears on a television set. (Content courtesy Paramount Global, Graphic by The Desk)

Paramount Plus

  • Live CBS on NFL games available in all packages
  • Live feed of local CBS stations available in Paramount Plus with Showtime premium package
  • CBS prime-time and reality shows available on demand
  • Dedicated streams for CBS News, Inside Edition, Survivor, classic sitcoms and more
  • Free trial available by clicking or tapping here

Paramount Plus is the best way to access live content from local CBS stations, including all locally-televised NFL on CBS games; CBS prime-time comedies, dramas and reality series like “Big Brother”; CBS News shows like “CBS Mornings,” “CBS Evening News” and “60 Minutes” and other CBS network shows.

Subscribers who opt for the Paramount Plus with Showtime package (previously called Paramount Plus Premium) will also get live access to Showtime East and Showtime West, as well as on-demand content from the Showtime library. Some of the more-popular titles on Showtime include “Yellowjackets,” “Homeland,” “Billions,” “The Chi,” “Your Honor” and “Shameless.”

Additionally, the Paramount Plus with Showtime package includes a live feed of a subscriber’s home area CBS station or affiliate (including KCCI in Des Moines and WLKY in Louisville), which means streamers will have access to their live local news programming and syndicated shows that are exclusive to their local CBS station, even while the dispute between Dish and Hearst plays on.

Paramount Plus offers two tiers: Essentials ($6 a month, includes live NFL on CBS) and Paramount Plus with Showtime ($12 a month, includes local CBS, Showtime and commercial-free, on-demand content). New users to Paramount Plus can try out either plan for free when they sign up by clicking or tapping here.

For an even better deal, new customers who choose an annual plan to Paramount Plus with Showtime will get 50 percent off the price when they sign up by clicking or tapping here and use the exclusive promotional code FALL at check-out. That brings the price of Paramount Plus to just $30 for the Essentials plan and $60 for the commercial-free plan with Showtime.


A Fubo TV guide listing shows an event for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
A Fubo TV guide listing shows an event for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. (Graphic by The Desk)

Fubo

  • Live CBS on NFL games available
  • Local CBS stations available
  • Also includes local ABC, NBC and Fox stations
  • ESPN and NFL Network includes in all packages
  • Limited free trial available by clicking or tapping here

For those who are thinking about cancelling their Dish Network service, why not give Fubo a try?

Fubo was built from the ground up to serve sports fans, and its inclusion of local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations across the country, as well as national feeds of ESPN and NFL Network, means football fans won’t have to miss out on any of their games (except Thursday Night Football games, which are exclusive to Amazon’s Prime Video — but you can also stream these games for free on Twitch).

There are more than 160 live channels offered in the base Fubo package, which starts $75 a month (a regional sports fee bumps the price up a bit, but it varies by location). Fubo allows streamers to watch on up to 10 screens at once, includes a robust cloud DVR that stores over 1,000 hours of content, and serves up popular channels like CBS Sports Network, MLB Network, ABC News Live, Fox News, MSNBC, FX, the Disney Channel, the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Comedy Central, TV Land and so many more.

New customers can get a free trial to Fubo when they sign up for an account by clicking or tapping here.


A Mohu Leaf antenna. (Courtesy image)
A Mohu Leaf antenna. (Courtesy image)

Over-the-Air Antenna

Some satellite TV customers rely on their service to bring in local channels that have historically been difficult, if not impossible, to receive with a conventional set of rabbit ears. But over-the-air broadcast technology has improved considerably over the last two decades, and TVs and antennas have kept up with the changes — so some Dish customers who have lost access to KCCI in Des Moines or WLKY in Louisville might be surprised to find they can pull in stations that were challenging to get in the past.

One of the best antenna manufacturers is Mohu, which first popularized the flat, leaf-style antennas that have become ubiquitous today. While others might offer similar products, Mohu undoubtedly makes the best and most-reliable indoor and outdoor antennas, and they’re well-worth the investment.

Mohu antennas are widely available at Amazon and Best Buy, and come in a variety of options:

  • If you live close to your local TV broadcast towers, get the Mohu Leaf Metro antenna ($25 on Amazon), a simple and sleek non-amplified antenna that is perfect for people who live in cities or suburbs.
  • If your home is 25 miles or more away from a local TV broadcast tower, or obstacles like tall buildings or terrain make pulling in signals difficult, get the Mohu Leaf 50 ($60 on Amazon, $60 at Best Buy), a slim indoor antenna that includes a pre-amplifier that helps pull in distant or stubborn TV signals.
  • Those who live in areas where TV signals are extremely difficult to get with a conventional indoor antenna might need to choose an outdoor antenna instead. Antennas Direct, the parent company of Mohu, offers the ClearStream Indoor/Outdoor TV Antenna ($70 at Amazon) for this purpose.

An over-the-air antenna is incredibly easy to use — just point in the direction of your local TV broadcast towers, plug the coaxial cable into the back of your TV set, do a channel scan (varies by TV model) and start watching free local broadcast affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW Network and many others.

But what if the best place to put an antenna isn’t anywhere near your TV set, or you want to watch broadcast TV on a phone, tablet or multiple smart TVs? There’s a solution for that, too!

The 4th-generation Tablo is a small device that allows TV fans to watch and record free broadcast television on many different types of smart devices. Using a conventional over-the-air antenna and a home’s WiFi network, Tablo streams live and recorded broadcast TV to Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV (Google TV), iPhone, iPad and Android phones and tablets (support for Apple TV is coming soon).

Since Tablo uses a WiFi network to stream broadcast TV to smart TV devices, phones and tablets, it can be placed anywhere in a home that a TV signal is the strongest. In my home, the best reception in the house is inside a second-story bedroom, which faces the direction of the broadcast towers in my area. Putting a Tablo and an antenna there means I can stream live TV content to my downstairs living room TV, where putting an antenna isn’t practical.

The 4th-generation Tablo includes 128 GBs of on-board flash storage, which allows users to record live broadcast television if they want to watch shows, movies or sports at a later time. And the device also unlocks dozens of free, ad-supported channels like Scripps News, Grit Xtra, Laff More, Bounce XL, Bloomberg TV, Maximum Effort TV and others, giving TV fans even more channels of great content to watch.

The 4th-generation Tablo costs just $100 (also available at Best Buy). There are no subscription fees, but an active broadband Internet connection is required to watch broadcast and free streaming TV channels.


The new YouTube TV multi-view feature allows streamers to watch multiple sports or news channels from a single screen. (Graphic by The Desk)
The new YouTube TV multi-view feature allows streamers to watch multiple sports or news channels from a single screen. (Graphic by The Desk)

Other Options

YouTube TV costs $73 a month and includes live access to local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox stations and affiliates across the country, along with national sports channels like ESPN, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, CBS Sports Network, NFL Network and NBA TV. The service also offers NFL RedZone in its Sports Plus package, and is the exclusive home of the NFL Sunday Ticket during the 2023-2024 football season.

Hulu with Live TV costs $77 a month and offers live access to local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox stations as well as ESPN, Fox Sports 1, NFL Network, CBS Sports Network and more. Hulu with Live TV also includes access to the ad-supported versions of Disney Plus and ESPN Plus, along with the full Hulu video on-demand content library. Hulu with Live TV does not offer a free trial to new or returning users.

DirecTV Stream offers most local television stations and national sports networks like ESPN, Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports Network and others. It is also one of the few streaming services to offer regional sports networks in some areas, which might be of interest to fans of baseball, hockey and other sports carried on local cable sports channels. DirecTV Stream frequently runs new customer deals, but be warned — the company is currently in a months-long dispute with Nexstar Media Group, which means streamers in Des Moines won’t have access to WHO-TV (Channel 13, NBC) with a DirecTV Stream subscription.


Hopefully, Dish Network and Hearst Television patch things up soon, but with programming-related blackouts increasing in frequency and fees continuing to rise, there’s a decent chance that the dispute between Dish and Hearst might go on for several weeks, if not longer. If that’s the case, it’s at least good to know there are options for those who still want access to their local broadcast stations.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).