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Univision and Dish reach carriage deal, ending nine-month blackout

Univision
The Los Angeles offices of Spanish-language Univision, which will return its channels to Dish satellite and streaming TV customers after a nine-month carriage fee dispute.
(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

Pay-TV service Dish has agreed to a new long-term carriage agreement with Univision, returning the Spanish-language programmer’s channels to 12.3 million subscribers after a nine-month blackout.

The deal announced Tuesday ends a standoff that began June 30 and became a major factor in recent steep subscriber losses for Dish.

Univision’s channels will also be returned to Dish’s Sling TV streaming video services, which were also affected by the blackout.

Terms of the new agreement — which restored the channels to customers Tuesday — were not disclosed. But pending litigation between the two companies was settled as part of the pact.

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The blackout affected Univision-owned broadcast stations, including two in Los Angeles: KMEX-TV Channel 34 and UniMás station KFTR-TV Channel 46.

Cable channels Galavisión, Tlnovelas and FOROtv were also included in the outage. Sling TV customers also lost access to those channels as well as Univision’s sports channel.

Univision has been seeking higher fees to bring its channels closer to those charged by English-language networks, such as ABC, NBC and CBS.

Like other pay-TV providers, Dish has taken a hard line on raising the carriage fees it pays for programming as the costs are passed on to consumers who have become more sensitive to rate increases. The Englewood, Colo., company has also cited the declining popularity of Univision’s programming in the dispute.

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But Dish executives acknowledged in a conference call to stock analysts last year that dropping the New York-based Univision channels probably accounted for half of the 367,000 subscribers it lost in the third quarter of 2018.

Dish saw further subscriber losses in the fourth quarter, when it dropped AT&T’s premium cable channel HBO over a fee dispute. HBO remains off Dish even as the much-anticipated final season of “Game of Thrones” approaches April 14.

Disputes over so-called carriage fees have become increasingly common in the shifting television industry.

This week, AT&T Inc. and Viacom Inc. reached a new distribution agreement, averting a blackout of Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and other channels on AT&T’s DirecTV service.

AT&T had demanded a reduction in the carriage fees charged by Viacom. The Dallas telecommunications company, which is heavily in debt, has been paying Viacom about $1 billion a year for the rights to distribute the channels.

A blackout would have deprived viewers of such popular shows as “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” and “South Park” on Comedy Central; “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Paw Patrol” on Nickelodeon; and “Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood” on VH1.

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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