TV Viewers Held Hostage In Contract Battle Between KHOU and DISH [UPDATED]

KHOU could soon go black for Houston's DISH subscribers.EXPAND
KHOU could soon go black for Houston's DISH subscribers.

UPDATE 9/30/15 at 4:20 p.m.: Tegna and DISH have reached a 24-hour contract extension, according to a Tegna press release. Deadline first reported earlier today that the two sides agreed to push the deadline for a deal from tonight at 6 p.m. to tomorrow, so Houston's DISH subscribers will have KHOU for at least one more day. 


(Original story)

DISH and KHOU are fighting again, which means all of Houston's innocent DISH subscribers who are stuck in the middle might have one less TV channel to watch starting Wednesday evening. 

Apparently Houston's CBS affiliate KHOU and DISH, the national TV-provider company, have reached an impasse in their negotiations over a contract for the station's carriage. If a deal isn't reached by the deadline on September 30 at 6 p.m., DISH subscribers will lose KHOU. So you (or, more likely, your parents) won't be able to watch hit shows like Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, and NCIS: Los Angeles if the two sides can't come to an agreement soon (also missing will be some SEC and NFL football games, KHOU's local programming, and Late Show With Stephen Colbert). 

This weekend, DISH ran a banner across its station, urging subscribers to call KHOU and complain that a deal has not yet been completed. Meanwhile, KHOU posted this "special message" for DISH customers on its website, claiming the provider has "refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement." In its message, KHOU also sort-of addressed allegations made by DISH that the station's owner is demanding "a big fee increase which would lead to higher satellite bills," though it didn't deny that the allegations were true: 

KHOU has successfully negotiated agreements with all the other providers in our area based on the same basic terms that are being offered to DISH.

In fact, over the past few years we reached deals with cable and satellite companies all across the country. Those providers all felt that they were able to reach a fair deal with us, while continuing to offer value to their subscribers and there is no reason why this negotiation with DISH should be different.

According to a press release, DISH offered to extend the deadline for its contract negotiations with Tegna, Inc. to keep local stations from going off the air, as long as the new contract's rate, whenever the two sides finally agreed to one, would be applied retroactively to cover the time spent negotiating after the original deadline passed (Tegna, a spin-off company of Gannett, owns KHOU and 45 other television stations in local markets across the country affiliated with CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX). But Tegna didn't bite.

"Tegna has not accepted our offer and has chosen to use consumers to gain leverage for the economic benefit of Tegna, while potentially causing substantial harm and disruption to the lives of those very same consumers who ultimately will bear the brunt of the unfair price increases sought by Tegna," DISH senior vice president of programming Warren Schlichting said in the press release.

This isn't the first time negotiations between DISH and local affiliates have threatened customers with a blackout. In October 2010, DISH and KHOU barely managed to avoid pushing the big red button and going black on Halloween eve by agreeing to a deadline extension. They eventually came to terms on November 2. 

In July, DISH and KPRC, Houston's NBC affiliate, also struggled to reach a deal, leading KPRC's vice president Jerry Miller to make this video— worthy of a Sarah McLachlan soundtrack— urging viewers to call DISH to complain and visit "savemychannel.com." The two parties reached a deal and avoided a blackout. 

If a blackout does happen Wednesday, viewers will have little choice but to switch providers or face a world without CBS. 

Messages left at KHOU have not yet been returned. We'll update this story if we hear back. 


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