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Friday, March 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Contract dispute between DISH Network, Apollo Global Management results in blackout of Fox 28 channel in Spokane

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 21, 2020

 (Paul Sakuma / AP)
(Paul Sakuma / AP)

DISH Network customers in Spokane lost access to KAYU-TV Fox 28 over the weekend after the satellite provider and station owner Apollo Global Management failed to negotiate a new contract.

In a statement, DISH Network said Apollo rejected its offer to extend a retransmission consent agreement – which expired Saturday – to keep channels in 10 markets on the air through the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl.

DISH Network stated Apollo is demanding “nearly double the fees” it pays to provide customers’ access to the channels.

“Apollo doesn’t care how high a customer’s bill gets. It’s trying to squeeze every last penny out of consumers to recoup the billions it spent buying these stations,” Andy LeCuyer, DISH senior vice president of programming said in a statement.

DISH customers also lost access to NBC and FOX affiliates in Pocatello, Idaho, and the Tri-Cities, respectively.

Apollo is the parent company of Cox Media Group, which said in a statement it repeatedly extended its contract with DISH and has been “negotiating intensively in good faith with numerous offers, but (the satellite company) has refused to respond with a single serious proposal.”

“We are simply seeking a fair agreement with DISH to carry these channels,” Kim Guthrie, CEO of Cox Media Group said in a statement. “DISH already pays much more for national networks like ESPN, even though far fewer people watch ESPN than any of our local stations.”

Apollo, a private equity investment company, manages more than $320 billion in assets. It acquired Northwest Broadcasting’s television assets, and Cox Media Group newspapers, radio and television stations last year. Northwest Broadcasting was the previous owner of FOX 28 in Spokane.

“DISH is notoriously greedy, unreasonable, and difficult to deal with in retransmission consent negotiations. DISH is trying to underpay for our award-winning programming, so it can boost its own profits. Despite all of its bluster, I doubt that DISH customers will ever see any savings for them,” Guthrie said in a statement. “Let me be very clear – it was 100% DISH’s decision to remove our TV stations from its service.”

Retransmission consent is a process created by federal law under which cable and satellite companies negotiate with television stations for the right to carry the stations on their systems. Broadcasters receive retransmission consent fees – similar to a monthly licensing fee – from cable and satellite providers.

Earlier this week, an Illinois court issued a temporary restraining order against Apollo, restricting it from blacking out 14 stations it acquired from Cox Media Group less than a month ago.

This is the third major blackout for Spokane satellite customers in the past year. A retransmission contract dispute between AT&T – which owns DirecTV – and Northwest Broadcasting resulted in an eight-month blackout of Fox 28 from the satellite provider’s lineup in 2019.

AT&T was also involved in a contract dispute with KHQ Inc., Cowles Montana Media and NBC Right Now, which resulted in monthlong blackout of KHQ-TV on DirecTV.

KHQ-TV is a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.

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