Starting Monday, WGRZ-TV Channel 2 may no longer be available on Dish Network, according to officials from Dish and Gannett Broadcasting Inc., owner of the NBC affiliate.
At issue in the ongoing contract negotiations are retransmission fees and a commercial-skipping DVR offered by Dish. Retransmission fees are money paid by cable and satellite operators to broadcast companies in order to retransmit broadcast signals.
“We’ve offered to pay Gannett higher rates, an increase of 200 percent,” said Dish spokesman Aaron Johnson. “They’re asking for more than 300 percent. We’re willing to come up high, but not as high as they are insisting upon.”
A statement on the WGRZ-TV website said: “In order for our station, WGRZ, to be delivered to your home, we negotiate agreements for the rights to carry our station with video service providers like Dish. In the vast majority of cases, these agreements are reached through normal business discussions. In fact, WGRZ has agreements in place with all of the video providers in our area.
“Unfortunately, so far Dish has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us. If a deal is not reached by midnight on Oct. 7,” the statement concluded, “Dish subscribers will lose access to WGRZ.”
Buffalo is not the only market affected by the stalled talks between Gannett and Dish, the nation’s third-largest pay-TV company. Other cities that could face a blackout include: St. Louis; Little Rock, Ark.; Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla.; Macon, Ga.; Bangor and Portland, Maine; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Greensboro, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; and Knoxville, Tenn., according to Dave Shull, DISH senior vice president of programming.
The commercial-skipping feature on Dish’s “Hopper” DVR allows users to automatically skip the TV ads when they are watching recorded shows. Dish introduced the technology earlier this year.
In August, Fox Broadcasting Co. sought a preliminary ban in Los Angeles federal court against Dish for its commercial-skipping DVR because of potential revenue loss, reported Bloomberg.com. Use of the Dish DVR, Bloomberg reported, would lead to a reduction of network TV viewers.
The original contract between Dish and Gannett expired at the end of September, according to Johnson. A contract extension that allowed negotiations to continue will expire at midnight Sunday. Another extension could not be agreed upon, he said.
“We offered to extend the contract to continue negotiations, and Gannett has refused,” Johnson said.
WGRZ, meanwhile, remains committed to an equitable resolution, saying, “WGRZ is committed to reaching fair, market-based agreements with all the video service providers in our area. “Our track record shows that we have successfully reached such deals time and time again. That is why Dish’s refusal to reach an agreement with us is disappointing.”