Television giants CBS Corp. and Dish Network continued negotiations Thursday night on a new carriage contract, providing a reprieve for nearly 500,000 Dish customers in metropolitan Los Angeles who risked having their favorite programs yanked off the air.
CBS had been threatening to pull its signal from Dish systems in 14 markets, including Los Angeles, if the two companies had not reached an agreement by 4 p.m. Thursday. But the deadline passed, and the two companies continued their talks.
Dish, the nation’s third-largest pay-TV company, is facing mounting pressure to reach a deal. Customers have been venting on social media in recent weeks, threatening to cancel their subscriptions if they lose CBS, the nation’s No. 1 television network. The network boasts such popular shows as “The Big Bang Theory,” “NCIS” and “Late Show With David Letterman,” as well as college and professional football games.
“Do not remove CBS — if you do, make arrangements to come take the dish off my house as you wouldn’t be fulfilling your contractual obligation,” one Minnesota man wrote on Dish’s Facebook page this week. CBS broadcasts Minnesota Vikings football games.
CBS is using its football coverage as leverage in the negotiations. The network is scheduled on Sunday to broadcast NFL football games featuring the Vikings, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.
The two media companies have been haggling nearly around the clock since earlier this week when CBS set the Thursday deadline. The New York broadcasting giant said it would not grant Dish any further contract extensions for their pact that expired Nov. 20.
The late-night talks suggested that the two sides were making progress toward a new agreement that covers CBS-owned television stations. Both companies are motivated to reach an accord. Dish doesn’t want to lose customers and CBS wants an increase in fees at a time when broadcasters are grappling with changes in audience behavior.
“CBS remains on the air with Dish while negotiations progress into the evening,” CBS said in a statement.
A Dish representative added: “Negotiations continue.”
CBS has two television stations in L.A. that are subject to the contract: KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9.
The two sides have been squabbling over several issues, including retransmission fees that CBS collects when pay-TV providers retransmit its station signals. CBS has aggressive goals to boost those fees in the next several years, and Dish has been pushing back.
Dish, which is headquartered in Englewood, Colo., has been among the most aggressive of pay-TV companies that are trying to hold the line on rapidly rising programming costs. CBS has not been shy about pulling its signal. Last year, Time Warner Cable subscribers went a month without CBS stations.
Digital rights have been another thorny issue. Dish is planning a low-cost Internet streaming package and the two sides have been discussing how best to include CBS in that offering.
Also complicating negotiations is Dish's controversial Auto Hopper device that enables subscribers to digitally record prime-time shows and then erase the commercials. CBS would like the technology disabled because it relies heavily on advertising revenue.