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Former Gannett TV stations go dark on Dish Network (Update: They’re back)

TEGNA, the television broadcast company that separated from Gannett earlier this summer, has yanked dozens of local channels from satellite provider Dish Network.

In late September, TEGNA (“Gannett” rearranged with duplicate letters dropped) warned viewers that its contract with Dish was nearing the end and that its broadcast channels could disappear from the satellite provider without a renewal.

Earlier this month, TEGNA and Dish announced a temporary extension that allowed viewers to continue watching the channels while negotiations continued. On Friday, TEGNA pulled the plug on Dish, blacking out almost four dozen stations throughout the country.

As has become routine in the pay television space, the blackout is the result of a breakdown in retransmission negotiations — an agreement broadcasters reach with pay TV companies like Dish to retransmit channels in exchange for a fee.

Dish has gained a reputation in the pay television space for allowing programmers to pull their channels during disputes over increased retransmission fees. Last year, Turner Broadcasting yanked CNN, Cartoon Network and other channels from Dish after the two sides failed to reach an agreement over fees and carriage on Dish’s then-upcoming streaming service Sling.

A similar incident occurred when Dish allowed 21st Century Fox to pull the FOX News and FOX Business channels from the platform.

On Friday, Dish said it had been making progress with TEGNA over retransmission of local stations, adding that the company was disappointed by the programmer’s decision to pull its channels before the weekend.

“TEGNA chose to turn its back on its public interest obligations and use innocent consumers as bargaining chips,” Dish executive Warren Schlichting said in a statement.

TEGNA’s own statement blamed Dish for not agreeing to “fair” fee increases and accused the satellite company of being a “serial dropper of channels.”

The move on Friday was almost certainly no coincidence: The move was likely meant to encourage Dish to capitulate to the programmer’s higher retransmission rate in order to prevent its satellite customers from losing access to sporting events this week (TEGNA operates several CBS and NBC affiliates across the country, and both networks have weekend rights to football games).

Sports has been a sticking point for programmers and pay TV platforms in the past. Two years ago, a weeks-long feud between Time Warner Cable and CBS was settled mere days before the start of that year’s football season.

TEGNA operates 48 television stations, including KPNX (Phoenix, Channel 12), KXTV (Sacramento, Channel 10), WXIA (Atlanta, Channel 11) and KUSA (Denver, Channel 9).

Update: Dish and TEGNA reached an agreement that led to the restoration of the blacked out channels on the satellite provider, according to a Dish press release.

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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).