CNN, other Turner channels return to Dish Network after blackout
CNN, Cartoon Network and other Turner Broadcasting channels have returned to Dish Network’s satellite television service as part of a short-term accord between the two fighting media companies.
After a monthlong blackout, Dish and Turner said Friday that they have “mutually decided” to restore service of the channels, including Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and HLN. Dish removed the channels after the two companies could not agree on a new pact — or even a deadline extension.
The companies also have agreed to extend carriage of TBS and TNT, Turner’s most popular channels, to allow the parties to continue negotiating a long-term deal.
The companies’ extension — which lasts for several months, according to two people familiar with the matter — will prevent TBS and TNT from going dark when the contract expires Dec. 5. Alarmed viewers had taken to social media to complain, threatening to cancel their Dish service if they lost access to programming.
Timing of the extension is important. Turner’s sports programming includes the NCAA March Madness tournament, and neither company wanted to risk alienating fans during that popular championship series.
Dish and Turner declined to comment further.
The blackout of CNN came at an inopportune time, during the midterm congressional elections and a fierce snowstorm in the Northeast. News viewers were not pleased.
Fans of Turner Classic Movies, a channel that runs old movies without commercial interruptions, were another vocal constituency.
“To just pull the Turner channel off the air like that was wrong,” said Karen Vondrak, who lives near Cleveland. “It made me mad and upset. I rely on that channel; it doesn’t have stuff like ‘Transformers’ with bullets coming out of people’s heads. That’s fine for the kids but I love the old movies.”
Vondrak, 65, was thrilled Friday with the return of the Turner channels.
“I love CNN too. They do a good job with up-to-the-minute news,” Vondrak said. “I like my iPad but I would rather get my news from the TV.”
The Turner-Dish spat was not the only dispute between TV programmers and the Englewood, Colo.-based satellite TV giant.
On Thursday, CBS Corp. and Dish agreed to a deadline extension to continue to wrangle over terms of a new contract, temporarily averting a blackout of CBS-owned television stations in 14 markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. That contract was set to expire Thursday night.
The dispute between the Dish and Turner, owned by Time Warner Inc., has been contentious. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen told Wall Street analysts this month that he wasn’t sure that CNN was still a must-carry network and poked fun at the cable news outlet’s seemingly endless coverage of last spring’s search for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet.
Turner Broadcasting Chief Executive John Martin returned fire during a conference call to discuss Time Warner’s earnings, calling Ergen’s comments “very antagonistic and aggressive.”
The issue is not insignificant for Turner. Dish has more than 14 million subscribers, making it one of the largest pay-TV providers in the country.
Nomura Securities analyst Anthony DiClemente noted in a research report that for every month of a blackout that included TNT and TBS, Time Warner could lose $89 million in revenue. Dish, he said, could save $48 million a month in programming costs but lengthy outages could prompt viewers to flee.
“These guys always play a game of brinkmanship,” DiClemente said in an interview Thursday. “But a deal eventually comes together.”
Twitter: @RFaughnder, @MegJamesLAT
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