Three channels go dark due to contract dispute

Richard R. Barron / The Ada News A cluster of large satellite dishes points skyward Wednesday at a local business. Channels 9, 10 and 26 went dark Tuesday afternoon due to a contract dispute between Dish Network and Lockwood Broadcasting Group, the parent company of KTEN NBC, ABC Texoma and The Texoma CW.

Dish Network subscribers in Ada discovered this week that Channels 9, 10 and 26 are missing from their lineup.

The ABC, NBC and The CW affiliates in Ada went dark late Tuesday afternoon on Dish Network after the company’s contract negotiations with Lockwood Broadcasting Group stalled. Lockwood is the parent company of KTEN NBC, ABC Texoma and The Texoma CW.

The two sides traded blame for the dispute, which centered on the rates Dish was willing to pay for the three stations.

KTEN’s general manager, Dave Tillery, said Wednesday that he hoped Dish and Lockwood would resolve their disagreement quickly.

“We certainly hope there’s an agreement reached soon,” he said. “We’re sorry that the customers are caught in the middle.”

Tillery said other broadcast stations across the country have encountered similar problems when renewing contracts with Dish.

KTEN also posted a statement on its website, which said that Lockwood had offered Dish a contrast extension in hopes of reaching a new agreement by Tuesday. However, the statement said negotiations hit a snag because Dish insisted on new conditions that were less favorable than the current agreement but wanted to pay fees that were substantially below market rates.

“Market-based rates are critical to us to be able to deliver the top-quality programming you have come to expect and to employ dozens of your friends and neighbors in our community,” the station said. “We have to stand up for what we know is right and fair.”

KTEN said all three stations are still available on DirectTV and on all local cable operators, and they are accessible to people who have an antenna.

For its part, Dish Network said it had offered Lockwood a short-term contract extension, which would have included a retroactive adjustment when the two sides agreed on new rates and preserved subscribers’ ability to access Lockwood-owned stations while negotiations continued.

“With Dish willing to grant an extension and a retroactive true-up on rates, Lockwood had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving the channels up,” Dish’s senior vice president of programming, Andy LeCuyer, said in a prepared statement. “Instead, Lockwood chose to turn its back on its public interest obligations and use innocent customers as bargaining chips. Only Lockwood can choose to remove its stations from Dish’s channel lineup.”

Dish said satellite operators are legally barred from carrying broadcasters’ signals without their consent.

The blackout includes the three stations serving Ada and Sherman, Texas; one station serving Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem, North Carolina; one station serving Huntsville, Decatur and Florence, Alabama; and one station in Wichita, Kansas. It was not immediately clear how many Ada customers were affected.

A Dish Network spokeswoman said the company does not publicly breakout the number of subscribers by geography.

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Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.