Late last night, customers of the Dish satellite TV service lost access to CNN, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, and a few other Turner Broadcasting networks (not TBS or TNT, though) as Turner and Dish were unable to agree on a new distribution contract. “Turner has worked diligently for months to come to a fair agreement…and it’s unfortunate that Dish is once again operating in a disruptive manner that takes away networks and programming from their customers,” Turner said in a statement. Likewise, Dish told its customers that “Turner is making unreasonable financial demands,” and it’s “unfortunate that these negotiations have impacted you.” Careful, you two! If you disingenuously wring your hands any harder, the skin might come off.
TruTV and HLN are also among the networks no longer being broadcast on Dish, so the news isn’t all bad, but this tiff is the latest in a long line of TV-industry disputes that force viewers to wait as tiresome legal and PR battles play out. We’ve seen this routine before: Eventually, the two parties will tire of their scrap, wipe away their tears and snot, and find a sweet spot of price-gouging that works for both of them.
How long that will take is anybody’s guess. A similar dispute between Time Warner and CBS last year was only resolved after a month of blackouts, and DirecTV played hardball with The Weather Channel for three months earlier this year before the two companies figured out how much it should cost to show people pictures of rain. But those disputes don’t measure up to an extended 2012 slapfight between Dish and AMC in which Dish customers went without AMC (read: torrented The Walking Dead) for five months.
Dish is directing customers to Dish Stands For You, an informational site that explains the dispute and directs viewers to alternate sources for their favorite programs. Plug almost any Cartoon Network show into the alternate-source-o-matic, for instance, and Dish Stands For You will point out that you can buy episodes of the show from Amazon or iTunes. If you’re wondering whether Dish will reimburse you for any iTunes purchases you might need to make during this outage, the answer is the sound of a Dish executive peeing himself with laughter.