Tegna Inc. today removed its local stations from nearly 3 million Dish TV customers in 53 markets across the country, the satellite provider announced. Dish maintained that “The programmer is using customers as negotiation leverage, demanding a massive fee increase to nearly a billion dollars and holding viewers hostage during football season.”
Brian Neylon, group president of Dish TV, said his company made “a fair offer” to Tegna which, according to its web site owns 64 news brands in 51 markets. He said the broadcaster is “demanding we pay for 100% of our subscribers in their markets, regardless of whether these subscribers receive or want Tegna’s programming.”
Neylon also contended that the fee increase is part of the local broadcaster’s plan to appeal to suitors. “Tegna is looking to sell its stations to the highest bidder,” he said.
While there was no statement about the Dish TV matter on Tegna’s web site or social media accounts, the company did announce on September 21 that it “recently received acquisition proposals,” promising that “the Board will carefully review and evaluate these proposals.”
Among those bidders were said to be Byron Allen’s group, along with Apollo Global Management and Standard General with an $8 billion offer. Allen made an $8.5 billion bid for the broadcaster in 2020.
The current dustup follows an apology from Tegna CEO Dave Lougee earlier this year over his racially insensitive actions toward a former Federal Communications Commission official.
Another thing the broadcaster’s social media accounts revealed was customer dissatisfaction. A Facebook user named Andrea Moran wrote the following in the comments of an unrelated post: “Stop holding consumers hostage while your company and Dish hash out a deal! You are forcing me to other news and programs. I may like them better and not come back.”
In 2015, Tegna pulled its stations from Dish in 38 markets over a similar dispute. The blackout lasted three days before a deal was reached.