Fox News Enlists Consumers in Fee Dispute With Dish Network

Blackouts Becoming a Fact of Life, Dish Says

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Fox News, the most-watched U.S. cable news network, is urging viewers to cancel their Dish Network Corp. subscriptions after its signals stopped being distributed on the satellite-TV provider's system in a fee dispute.

The network, part of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, stopped airing in the homes 14 million Dish subscribers as of Dec. 21.

Fox News has attracted an average nightly audience of 1.86 million viewers in prime time so far this TV season, according to Nielsen data.

The Fox Business Network also went dark after the two companies failed to negotiate new contract terms.

The New York-based broadcaster today introduced a website, keepfoxnews.com, that allows visitors to type in their zip code and find other pay-TV operators. Tim Carry, executive VP for distribution at the network, said the site has generated 22,000 e-mails and 7,000 phone calls requesting that Dish reinstate the channel.

"I'll do everything in my power to make sure our customers can switch providers as quickly as possible," Mr. Carry said in an interview. The terms Fox offered the company are similar to deals cut with other cable and satellite-TV operators, he said.

Dish, the third-largest U.S. pay-TV service, introduced its own website, dishstandsforyou.com, where it says channel blackouts are becoming a fact of life for TV viewers because of rising programming costs and switching providers won't solve that problem.

The Englewood, Colorado-based company said in a statement that Fox had cut off the two news networks in an effort to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that aren't a part of the contract up for renewal.

"It's like we're about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well," Warren Schlichting, Dish's senior VP of programming, said in the statement. Dish regrets the effect of the disruption on consumers and is committed to reaching an agreement, he said.

The Fox News disconnect is the third time in as many months that Dish has lost channels in a contract dispute. CBS Corp. pulled its flagship network briefly from Dish on Dec. 5 before reaching a long-term accord restoring service a few hours later.

Several Turner Broadcasting channels, including CNN and Cartoon Network, went dark on Dish in October. The two sides agreed Nov. 21 to extend service for several months while they worked out a long-term deal.

On Dec. 20, Dish reached a multiyear agreement with Comcast Corp.'s SportsNet to keep regional sports networks on the air.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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