Dish and Hearst go silent, could be set for long-running retrans battle

Forty-seven days into Hearst Broadcasting’s blackout on Dish Network, there’s growing speculation that the stalemate could have permanence, or at least be very protracted. 

As Satellite Business News noted, the last propaganda volley occurred March 27, when the station group updated its website. 

Normally, when such messaging bursts grow silent in retrans-related impasses go silent, it means the two sides are actively engaged in negotiations. But that doesn’t appear to be the case here. 

FierceCable reached out to both Dish and Hearst this morning. 

A Hearst rep told us simply, “Nothing new on our end.”

RELATED: Hearst puts Dish on the clock to end blackout

It’s a significant blackout, affecting 33 stations in 26 markets. Impacted stations include ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston, Baltimore NBC affiliate WBAL-TV, Cincinnati NBC station WLWT-TV, New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU-TV and Pittsburgh ABC station WTAE-TV.

Dish said in March that it had agreed to accept the same terms as DirecTV, after the satellite rival settled its own retransmission impasse with Hearst in January.

However, ending 2016 with 13.671 million subscribers, Dish Network is an apple to DirecTV’s orange in terms of negotiating leverage. DirecTV parent AT&T ended the year with an industry-leading 25.265 million pay-TV customers. 

Dish has endured a steady sequence of testy negotiations related to broadcast retransmission and carriage over the last several years, largely because it has pressed hard to secure OTT rights for its IP platform, Sling TV. 

In earnings reports, meanwhile, Dish Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen has taken a strong rhetorical tone, noting on several occasions that when a station group or cable network goes dark on his satellite platform, the company is prepared to live without it for the long term.