Dish Network and Comcast are in a staring contest, waiting for the other to blink first. Next week, Dish’s contract with four regional Comcast sports networks — CSN Chicago, CSN Mid-Atlantic, CSN Bay Area and CSN California — will expire. If a renewal is not worked out soon, Dish subscribers in Chicago, Washington and San Jose are going to miss a whole lot of hockey.
It’s even worse for Sharks and Capitals fans who subscribe to Dish, since those teams are broadcast exclusively (save for nationally televised games) on their local Comcast stations.
Should Dish decide to drop these regional Comcast sports networks, that would mean that Blackhawks, Capitals and Sharks fans who subscribe to Dish would either have to do without their home team’s games, or change cable providers. But reaching an agreement would most likely result in higher prices for Dish subscribers.
During Sunday night’s Blackhawks game, color commentator Eddie Olczyk read a statement urging viewers to call Dish and ask that they retain CSN Chicago, and to visit the website I Want CSN Chicago.
The Blackhawks, who are part-owners of the station, also link to this site, which lists different means of contacting Dish and even encourages viewers to easily “share your frustration on social media” via Facebook and Twitter buttons.
Obviously, this all comes down to money. According to Comcast:.
CSN is simply asking for rates and distribution terms consistent with those that have been agreed to with many other distributors in the market. Dish’s unwillingness to recognize the value that live sports delivers is putting Dish customers at risk of losing access to live game coverage and comprehensive sports news they have come to love and value from Comcast Sportsnet. (source)
How much those rates are is anyone’s guess. CSN Chicago stated on their Facebook page that the rate is “less than 10%,” citing a San Francisco Gazette article that actually does not mention any amount.
Dish, on the other hand, is claiming that Comcast wants a much larger increase. From Broadcasting & Cable:
“Comcast SportsNet is demanding a 40% price increase for more than 90% of Dish customers in each of the affected markets, when only a small fraction of those consumers actually watch the channels,” Dish said in a statement.
Comcast — the largest cable TV provider in the U.S. — has little incentive to make any sweetheart deals with Dish for the regional Comcast SportsNet stations. Dish is their competitor.
Realistically, two scenarios could play out. Dish may very well cuts ties with Comcast. Back in August, they dumped CSN New England when the two companies couldn’t reach an agreement, so history may repeat. The result would be disgruntled fans either living without their favorite hockey team, or switching cable providers. With Comcast controlling 22% of the market — 33% if their merger with Time Warner Cable is approved — they can only stand to gain customers from this scenario.
Or, Dish might agree to a price increase with Comcast for the regional CSN stations, but the cost would most likely be passed onto their customers. Dish subscribers already pay $5 extra per month (the America’s Top 120 Plus package) to add regional sports networks to their Dish packages. Hockey fans will either complain about the price increase but pay it anyway, or cancel their Dish subscription and seek another cable provider. Again, Comcast will most likely be waiting for the rebound.
Either way, hockey fans lose and Comcast wins.