CBS and Dish agree to extend deadline; blackout averted

CBS and Dish agree to extend deadline; blackout averted
A blackout of CBS stations could leave Dish Network viewers in Denver unable to watch this Sunday's game featuring the Denver Broncos and their quarterback Peyton Manning, above. (Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

CBS Corp. and Dish Network have agreed to extend the deadline for a new contract -- at least for now averting a blackout of CBS-owned television stations for millions of satellite TV subscribers around the country.

The move suggests the two sides are making progress at the bargaining table.


"CBS has agreed to a short-term extension while negotiations continue," CBS said in a brief statement Thursday evening.

For now, viewers won't miss original episodes of "The Big Bang Theory," "Blue Bloods" and "Late Show With David Letterman." If the dispute gets resolved, Dish Network subscribers in Denver would be able to watch the Broncos battle the Miami Dolphins this weekend.

And, in Philadelphia, sports fans should be able to watch the Eagles play the Tennessee Titans.

Dish's roughly 500,000 homes in the Los Angeles region would have been affected. CBS' stations KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9 are part of the agreement being negotiated.

CBS has been using its muscle -- its popular prime-time and sports programming -- to try to renew the carriage deal with more favorable terms. The broadcasting company has been looking for a substantial hike in the fees it charges for the retransmission of CBS station signals.

The contract covers CBS-owned stations in 14 markets, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Dallas, Minneapolis, Detroit and New York.

The contract was set to expire Thursday night.

Since late last week, CBS has been warning of a potential blackout of its TV stations on Dish's systems. The New York-based broadcaster has been airing commercial messages that encourage viewers to call an 800 number, which routes them into Dish's call centers.

Bobby Campbell, a technical recruiter who lives in Mound, Minn., has subscribed to Dish service for 18 years. He and his wife also are loyal viewers of the CBS station in Minneapolis, WCCO-TV Channel 4.

"We definitely would consider switching to another service so we could get CBS," Campbell said in an interview. "That's the news we watch everyday, and they broadcast the Vikings. The Vikings aren't that great -- but they are all that we have."

Consumers in recent years have been growing frustrated by the increasing tensions between programmers like CBS and pay-TV companies, such as Dish, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable.

When the two sides battle it out, viewers say they are the ones who get caught in the crossfire.

CBS and Dish are said to be wrangling over several deal points, including digital rights and Dish's Auto Hop feature that allows customers to easily avoid commercials.

Dish customers already are without CNN, Turner Classic Movies and Cartoon Network. Dish dropped those channels last month after a carriage agreement with Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting unit expired.


Dish has several other carriage contract battles brewing, including another contract with Turner Broadcasting that covers TNT and TBS.  A deal with NBCUniversal over several regional sports networks is expiring in early December.

With 14 million customers, Dish is the third-largest pay-TV provider in the nation. It has long been one of the most aggressive in its battles with programmers to try to hold the line on carriage costs.

Distribution companies, including Dish, increasingly are on the defensive as they try to manage programming expenses in an effort to prevent more defections of customers to lower-cost services.

Meanwhile, programmers such as CBS have been emboldened to use the popularity of their offerings as leverage at the negotiation table -- and to rally viewers to choose sides during contract disputes.

The stakes are high. Dish's third fiscal quarter was marked by more customer cancellations than analysts had been forecasting. Dish lost 12,000 pay-TV customers during the July through September period. However, Dish would save money by keeping programming off the air.

CBS survived a month-long blackout on Time Warner Cable systems in 2013. That summer outage ended badly for Time Warner Cable, which lost 300,000 subscribers during that quarter.

Time Warner Cable ended the dispute by caving in to CBS' demands on deal terms.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT