Dish Network subscribers could lose Blackhawks, Capitals, Sharks games

comcast_vs_dishDish 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.

blackouts_verticalFor Blackhawks’ fans, this could be particularly bad. While a handful of ‘Hawks games are on the local WGN channel, most of the games are on CSN Chicago. So are the first two rounds of the playoffs.

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.

On Thursday, CSN Chicago started broadcasting 30-second commercials warning customers of what could happen if an agreement is not reached. Similar commercials have aired on CSN Mid-Atlantic.

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.

websiteThe 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.

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The “I Want CSN Chicago” website features easy-to-share social media rants.

Comcast launched virtually the same websites for their Mid-Atlantic, Bay Area and California stations.

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.

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

3 thoughts on “Dish Network subscribers could lose Blackhawks, Capitals, Sharks games”

  1. Sounds like the Rogers deal up here. Even with the Centre Ice package which is supposed to get you all the games, I conveniently have been unable to get a couple of Pens games (most recently against the Rangers where it simply wasn’t on TV at all for me).
    Whats frustrating to me is that despite paying extra for this service, I am unable to select what feeds I would like to watch any particular game and have been often forced to have my Centre Ice channel from the local Root feed blacked out and am forced to watch the Rogers feed (this is happening way more frequently than previous years). Something about the most recent rounds of TV deals that just doesn’t seem right.

    1. I know what you mean about choosing which feed you want. I’m the same way. Although I will admit that I was never a fan of the Penguins SCRATCH MY BACK WITH A HACKSAW play-by-play guy, so I would chose the other team if watching a Pens game.

      What frustrates me about Center Ice is that a lot of the Canadian feeds are in SD and not HD. So if I watch the Jets and the Flames, it will look all grainy. This also applies, many times, to the Hockey Night in Canada late game.

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