Sinclair And Dish Reach Retrans Deal

Shortly after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler ordered the Media Bureau to intervene in the blackout, the broadcaster and satellite provider agreed on terms of a new contract.

Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Wednesday evening that it reached an agreement in principal with Dish Network for the carriage of 129 of the company’s television stations covering 79 markets.

Sinclair said the parties have entered into a two-week extension in order to allow time to document the agreement.

“We are pleased to announce that we were able to come to an agreement in principal with Dish, and we regret any inconvenience that was caused to the Dish subscribers as a result of the short blackout,” said Barry Faber, Sinclair’s EVP-general counsel and chief negotiator.

Earlier in the day, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had directed the Media Bureau to convene an emergency meeting with Dish and Sinclair. After learning of the agreement, Wheeler issued this statement: “On behalf of more than 5 million consumers nationwide, I am pleased Dish and Sinclair have agreed to end one of the largest blackouts in history and extend their negotiations. The FCC will remain vigilant while the negotiations continue.”

Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Marci Ryvicker said that her contacts in Washington say the dispute “will likely form a significant part of the FCC’s fact finding [for the commission’s retrans Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] when it comes to good faith negotiations. But there are a few important things to keep in mind. 1) Dish had no issues with the actual retrans rate — a big deal given investor fear that Wheeler is looking to regulate retrans via a Title II-like approach. And 2) The crux of Dish’s argument had to do with tying of broadcast and cable — this is the issue we think the FCC is most concerned about and likely to have more of an adverse impact on diversifieds vs. affiliates.”

She added: “We honestly don’t know [which side ‘won’], as we have no idea how influential Wheeler’s involvement ultimately was (recall that Wheeler scheduled an emergency meeting requiring the two sides to meet earlier in the day). And given lack of disclosure on terms, we don’t know which party ultimately compromised more than the other (usually the pay-TV guy loses here but again, we have no information). We do believe that SBGI secured cable carriage, which seemed to be the crux of Dish’s complaint.”


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