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CBS issues ultimatum to Dish: Strike a deal or stations go dark

CBS issues ultimatum: Network-owned stations will go dark on Dish systems Thursday unless deal is reached

After weeks of negotiations and two deadline extensions, CBS Corp. has issued an ultimatum to satellite TV giant Dish Network: Strike a deal or CBS-owned stations will go dark.

CBS said it was prepared to yank its signal for its stations at 4 p.m. Pacific time (7 p.m. Eastern) on Thursday if the two sides have not yet hammered out a new contract. 

"Unless agreements are reached... our viewers should be prepared to lose CBS from their Dish systems on Thursday evening," CBS said in a statement Tuesday morning.

Such a move would leave millions of television viewers without easy access to such favorite shows as "The Big Bang Theory," "Mom," "Blue Bloods," NFL football and "60 Minutes."

A Dish spokesman reiterated the company's previous position:

“Only CBS can force a blackout of its channels," Dish said in a statement. "Dish is actively working to reach a deal before the contract expires .... There is time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal.”

For nearly six months, the two sides have had on-and-off negotiations for a new contract that covers CBS-owned television stations in 14 metropolitan markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.

During the last two weeks, as negotiations heated up, CBS offered two contract extensions for the pact that expired on Nov. 20.  

"The second extension, which protected Dish subscribers’ programming over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, was the final one," CBS said, adding that it granted the extensions "in the hopes that this would give both parties sufficient time to come to a resolution."

The two sides have been squabbling over the so-called retransmission fees that CBS collects when pay-TV providers retransmit its station signals on their systems. CBS has aggressive goals to boost those fees in the next several years, and Dish has been pushing back.

Another issue is how Dish plans to include the broadcast network in a new low-cost Internet subscription service that Dish plans to launch in the coming months.

Consumers in recent years have been growing frustrated by the increasing tensions between programmers like CBS and pay-TV companies, such as Dish and Time Warner Cable. When the two sides battle it out, viewers say they are the ones who must suffer.

Satellite TV giant Dish has nearly 500,000 subscribers in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If the two sides don't reach a deal, Dish customers could see a disruption in the availability of the two local CBS stations -- KCBS-TV (Channel 2) and KCAL-TV (Channel 9).

Los Angeles is Dish's largest market.

For more than a month this fall, Dish subscribers went without several Turner Broadcasting channels, including CNN, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies.  Service of those channels was restored about 10 days ago when Turner and Dish reached a truce and agreed to a longer-term deadline extension.

Dish also is battling with NBCUniversal over carriage of several Comcast Sports Net channels, including channels in Sacramento and San Francisco. A deadline for a deal in that dispute comes later this week.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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