DISH, WEVV dispute leaves customers frustrated

Evansville Courier & Press

When Patricia Fisher of Boonville went searching for the NFL playoff game schedule last weekend, she found nothing but disappointment.

Fisher is a DISH Network customer. As she scrolled through Sunday’s programming schedule, she found she was blocked from receiving both Fox and CBS.

Since NFL games air on Fox and CBS, Fisher, an Indianapolis Colts fan, missed the Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos game. Friends kept her updated on the score via Facebook, but it wasn’t the same.

“On the weekends, that’s my thing. I want to watch the football games,” Fisher said.

“I’m really disappointed.”

Fisher and other DISH customers have been unable to receive WEVV TV programming for the past week because of a business dispute between the Evansville station and the satellite television provider. WEVV is the Evansville affiliate for both CBS and Fox.

At issue is the retransmission agreement between the two parties.

According to Federal Communications Commission rules, a cable system or satellite provider must have consent from a television station to carry the station’s signal. Typically, the cable system or satellite provider pays what is known as a retransmission fee to the station in exchange as part of this agreement.

Once an agreement expires, the cable system or satellite provider must stop offering the station’s programming unless the two parties decide to extend the current agreement while they negotiate a new deal.

In the DISH/WEVV dispute, each side has gone public with its side of the story.

WEVV was recently acquired by Texas-based Bayou City Broadcasting. It is currently the only station that Bayou City owns.

The Courier & Press was unable to reach either WEVV or Bayou City’s President and Chief Executive Officer, DuJuan McCoy, by telephone on Tuesday.

But WEVV has been communicating its side of the story on its Facebook page over the past several days.

In a Jan. 8 post, WEVV said that Bayou City’s agreement with DISH expired on Jan. 7, and DISH rejected Bayou City’s offer to extend the agreement while negotiations continued.

And in a Jan. 12 post, WEVV said that DISH is trying to exert leverage over Bayou City because of the broadcast company’s small size. WEVV’s former owner was Nexstar, a much larger company.

“DISH Network rakes in large profits simply based on the fact that its customers want to watch the programming WEVV offers. Dish Network continues to feel entitled to the large profits they earn off the signals from WEVV,” the station’s Facebook post read.

“As the costs of producing content and securing sports rights continue to rise, so must WEVV’s efforts to remain competitive to bring this programming to its viewers. WEVV’s eventual (addition) of local news will only strengthen its commitment to the community it serves,” the statement also said.

DISH Network declined to comment beyond a news release that it issued Jan. 7.

In its release, DISH paints Bayou City as the bad guy.

“Bayou City blacked out its channels to use viewers as bargaining chips as it makes unreasonable demands on DISH and its customers,” DISH Senior Vice President of Programming Warren Schlichting said in the statement.

DISH said Bayou City wants DISH to pay “higher fees than DISH currently pays any other broadcaster nationwide.”

The DISH statement also says that it is working on an agreement that will return WEVV programming to DISH’s local lineup.

Meanwhile, Fisher said she feels caught in the middle, paying full fees without full channel access.

“We pay for that service and we should be able to get it,” she said.

In case she needs it, Fisher has a Plan B lined up for football watching this weekend.

“I’ll probably end up going to my son’s house.”

Another local DISH customer, James Hall of Gibson County, called the WEVV dispute “a deal-breaker.”

Hall enjoys pro football and missed seeing last weekend’s games. He also follows NASCAR, whose racing season begins next month and which is also broadcast on Fox.

“I’m just tired of it,” Hall said of the blackout. “I’m going to DirecTV.”

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