New battle for Northwest Broadcasting Inc.
Nov 27, 2012 (Mail Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Scarcely a month has passed since Northwest Broadcasting Inc. and DirecTV buried the hatchet.
Now the parent company of Medford's Fox-affiliate KMVU finds itself with another major adversary, satellite programmer DISH Network of Englewood, Colo.
Negotiations between the nation's second-largest satellite programmer, with more than 14 million subscribers, and Northwest Broadcasting failed to produce an agreement, leading to a 2 p.m. Monday blackout of Fox-affiliate signals in Medford. Also affected were stations in Spokane, Wash., Yakima, Wash., and Binghamtom, N.Y.
DISH Network said Northwest Broadcasting, which is based in Michigan, rejected its offer to pay the same rate as its competitors.
"We are disappointed that Northwest has chosen to be so unreasonable in their demands, and we hope they will begin to negotiate in more realistic terms as soon as possible, so we can bring these channels back to our customers," Andrew LeCuyer, DISH vice president of programming, said in a statement. "Unfortunately it has been Northwest's business model to take programming away from their viewers in an effort to get money. They have done this with other providers twice in the past two years, and as recently as a few months ago."
Northwest Broadcasting went to the mat with El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV for nearly 22 months before agreeing to a new pact in late October. That battle saw NFL playoff games blacked out in January 2011 and regular season games for two months this season, as well as Major League Baseball postseason games and regular programming.
"Right up to the point of a breakdown in negotiations, our company expected it would reach a mutually satisfactory agreement for continued carriage of our stations," Northwest Broadcasting said in a release.
How many subscribers are without a Fox Network signal is unclear. John Hall, a spokesman for DISH Network, said the company doesn't release how many subscribers it has in a particular market for competitive reasons.
"Northwest has gone through this before," Hall said. "They seem to be doing this, agnostic to what provider. It seems to be their business model by taking programming away from viewers. Our preference would be to work out a deal with a station owner at a fair-market price that everyone agrees to, the world moves on, and the viewer is unaffected."
Northwest Broadcasting said negotiations have been conducted over several months, with no disruption in service to DISH customers prior to this week.
During the past 12 months, Northwest Broadcasting has signed 13 agreements, but it finds big operators can be intimidating at the bargaining table.
"It is difficult for our small company to stand up to a $14 billion company like DISH," the company said in a release. "But if we do not, we will not be able to survive in this economic environment. It takes two parties to have a disagreement, and you are likely to hear from DISH this is about some astronomical increase in rates. However, the terms requested by Northwest are almost identical to those agreed to by other providers."
Northwest Chief Operating Officer Jon Rand took exception with DISH Network's assertions that it offered the station group the same rates as its competitors.
"Each of our agreements with other providers contains confidentiality clauses and unless DISH is suggesting that their competitors have each violated their confidentiality obligations, DISH would have no way of knowing what their competitors are paying Northwest," Rand said in an email. "Their statement is simply not true."
DISH Network's assertion that it is "working around the clock to reach an agreement," Rand said, "is another example of a complete distortion of the truth. Our company awaits their phone call."
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