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Dish and Sling Drop Fox, FS1, Big Ten Network At Bad Time for Sports Fans

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JANUARY 17:  The Fox Network logo is displayed during the 2005 Television Critics Winter Press Tour at the Hilton Universal Hotel on January 17, 2005 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Fox and Dish (which also owns Sling) are in a good old fashioned carriage dispute, and as these things go it's rearing its head at a bad time for big sports fans. The Fox affiliates owned and operated by the company have gone dark on the platforms, as have FS1, FS2, and Big Ten Network. John Ourand has been covering this extensively on his Twitter feed.

Here is Fox's statement to him:

Dish/Sling is at it again, choosing to drop leading programming as a negotiating tactic regardless of the impact on its own customers. Dish/Sling elected to drop Fox networks in an effort to coerce us to agree to outrageous demands. While we regret this is DISH/Sling’s preferred approach to negotiating, we remind our loyal viewers that the Fox services are widely available through every other major television provider.

And here is a statement from a Dish executive:

Fox’s actions are profoundly anti-consumer. Fox is raising prices and turning its back on its public obligation to provide channels to consumers for free. It’s clear that Fox cares more about padding its bottom line than serving its viewers. To add insult to injury, Fox pulled its channels right as viewers head into the heart of the NFL and college football season. We ask Fox to stop punishing its own viewers so we can focus on reaching a fair deal.

Nothing is too profound here -- we hear quotes like this from both sides every time something like this happens. The thrust of this is that Fox wishes to raise its affiliate fees per subscriber for its networks -- in the case of the broadcast nets, they have added Thursday Night Football and will soon add WWE Smackdown since the last time these rates were negotiated, and the way to make the math work on the premiums they paid for these packages versus what CBS, NBC, and USA were paying for them before is through increased ad sales and affiliate fees.

Dish, meanwhile, is in a dog fight to hold onto its subscribers, who have been fleeing in astounding numbers. In the three quarters announced before this past one, they combined to lose 934,000 net subscribers. This past quarter they "only" lost 31,000 net subscribers (Sling is gaining subscribers, but at a much slower rate than Dish is losing them). This adds up to nearly a million; between Dish and Sling they had about 14.5 million remaining as of June 30th. Keeping their costs as low as possible is imperative for them if they do not wish to continue to hemorrhage customers.

Dish is involved in a similar carriage dispute with the Fox Sports RSNs, which are now owned by Sinclair. People in cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis missed out on pennant races because of it.

With regards to this Fox situation, Dish customers in these cities -- including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, and San Francisco -- will be without their Fox affiliates until this dispute ends (in many regions, the Fox affiliates are owned by third parties). For a given number of people, this situation will affect viewing of NFL, college football, MLB playoffs, and WWE. Hopefully it can get resolved sooner than later.