The Turner Broadcasting-Dish Network kerfuffle continues to ruffle feathers.
The two companies are involved in an increasingly contentious dispute over a new distribution agreement for several Turner channels, including CNN, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies. Dish dropped the channels two weeks ago when the two companies could not agree on an extension.
Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen told Wall Street analysts on Tuesday that he wasn’t sure that CNN was still a must-carry network.
Ergen even poked fun at CNN’s seemingly endless coverage of the search last spring for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet.
Turner Broadcasting Chief Executive John Martin returned fire on Wednesday.
“We disagreed with virtually everything he said as it related to the importance of our product,” Martin said during a conference call to discuss Time Warner’s earnings. He called Ergen’s comments “very antagonistic and aggressive.”
Dish’s removal of the Turner channels was perplexing, Martin said. Dish had all but agreed several weeks ago on a new deal -- including fee increases -- to carry the Turner channels, he said.
Martin said his company, during negotiations, had been agreeable to allowing Dish to package Turner channels in an Internet streaming service that Dish plans to launch by year’s end.
Now, however, such an arrangement is in doubt.
While there were some loose ends with the contract, Turner executives were under the impression the unresolved issues were not major sticking points.
“To us, it is unclear exactly what the dispute with Dish is,” Martin said.
Other major pay-TV companies had agreed to the same contract terms that Dish walked away from last month, Martin said.
Turner executives were particularly bewildered, Martin said, because Dish executives told them the channels were removed because Turner wouldn’t agree to extend the deadline for negotiations on a second contract.
That contract, which expires at the end of the year, covers the carriage of Turner’s largest channels TNT and TBS.
The dispute is not inconsequential. Dish has more than 14 million subscribers, making it one of the largest pay-TV providers in the country.
Wall Street analysts expressed concern the two sides may not be able to resolve their dispute.
Time Warner executives sought to calm investors.
“We still expect we’ll reach a deal,” Howard M. Averill, the company’s chief financial officer said. “We don’t expect this [dispute] is going to impact our long-term guidance.”