As the dispute between DISH Network and Turner Broadcasting enters its third week, relations between the two companies are starting to feel like a marriage gone sour.
On an earnings call with investors this morning, Turner CEO John Martin responded to DISH CEO Charlie Ergen’s comments about the satcaster’s blackout of eight Turner Broadcasting channels, calling his remarks “antagonistic and aggressive.”
The blackout of TCM, CNN, CNN en Espanol, HLN, TruTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang began in the early morning hours of October 21, impacting more than 14 million DISH customers nationwide. Martin expressed confusion at the tone of the comments today, implying that the two sides had been far closer to an agreement than Ergen’s remarks suggested.
“(W)hile there clearly were more deal points to get done, they were not of the type of nature that would result in networks going dark,” Variety quotes Martin as saying.
Martin’s conspicuous use of the past tense also extends to Dish’s announced “virtual cable” service, which will deliver a paired-down offering of channels to subscribers via the Internet for $20-$30 per month. The “over-the-top” (OTT) offering is designed for cord-cutters and so-called cord-nevers who “don’t live in the same place all the time,” such as college students and twenty-something Millennials. A deal had been place to include Turner networks on the service, but Martin said Turner’s involvement in that offering was now “unclear.”
“To us, it is unclear exactly what the dispute with Dish is,” the Hollywood Reporter quotes Martin as saying. “(W)e’re disappointed particularly, given the fact that Dish had previously agreed to our network’s rates and our carriage proposals weeks ago.”
So if the blackout is not about Turner’s demand for higher subscription fees from DISH customers, as DISH has insisted from Day 1, then what complicated the negotiations, which collapsed on October 21?
One potential sticking point may be HBO’s standalone streaming service, set to launch in 2015, which was announced by Time Warner on October 15 – just days before the blackout began. Although details of the service have not yet been revealed, HBO CEO Richard Plepler said today that the network is looking to pull in as many as 5 million subscribers with the subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) version of HBO, which may (or may not) resemble the HBO GO streaming platform currently offered to customers with authenticated pay TV subscriptions.
Targeting an available customer base of 10 million broadband-only customers in the US who don’t subscribe to cable TV, Turner’s corporate cousin HBO may find itself in direct competition with DISH’s planned internet-only offering.
Whatever the reasons, like in all disintegrating marriages, it’s the kids (or in this case the viewers) who are suffering the most in this fight.
Turner has updated its Save My Shows website, referencing the the “aggressive nature of the comments” from Ergen and the fact that DISH had agreed to increased rates for the blacked-out channels “weeks ago.” DISH’s consumer Dish Stands For You continues to insist “Turner is making unreasonable financial demands.”