For the third time in a month, Dish Network customers are missing out on popular programming due to a dispute with a channel owner.
This time it's Fox News, one of the most popular cable channels in the United States. The channel disappeared from Dish ('s lineup shortly after midnight Eastern time Sunday because Dish's contract to carry Fox News expired before it could be renewed. It was still blacked out on Monday. )
Early Sunday morning, the two sides traded barbs about the reasons for the blackout, and Fox News urged its fans to switch to another television provider.
Dish replaced Fox News with The Blaze, the relatively new cable channel owned by Glenn Beck. It replaced the much smaller Fox Business Channel, which was also blacked out, with CNBC.
In its 18-year history, Fox News has never been blacked out by any major television distributor. This dispute will be particularly interesting to watch because Fox has an extraordinarily loyal audience -- a "base," so to speak, that might be motivated to drop Dish.
That's what Fox says it wants.
"Dish prematurely ceased distribution of Fox News in an attempt to intimidate and sway our negotiations," Fox News executive vice president of distribution Tim Carry said in a statement early Sunday morning.
"It is unfortunate that the millions of Fox News viewers on Dish were used as pawns by their provider. Hopefully they will vote with their hard earned money and seek another one of our other valued distributors immediately."
Encouraging viewers to switch providers is a common channel owner tactic in standoffs like this one. If history is any guide, Fox's parent company Twenty-First Century Fox ( wants Dish to accept higher rates for Fox News and restore the channel as soon as possible. )
The blackout comes one month to the day after CNN (the parent of this website) and other channels owned by Turner Broadcasting returned to Dish's lineup. That disruption lasted for one month and weakened CNN's ratings, since Dish beams TV to about one in every seven U.S. households that subscribe to some form of TV package.
More recently, the CBS broadcast network was blacked out for about 12 hours in some major markets due to a separate dispute between Dish and CBS Corporation (. )
Earlier this week, Fox News Channel's parent company 21st Century Fox started to warn that another blackout was looming. On Saturday, Fox ran warnings on-screen that urged its fans to lobby the satellite provider and said "don't let Dish control the news you watch."
After the blackout began on Sunday, Fox's web site about the negotiations echoed that message.
But Dish's point of view is that it is being aggressive on behalf of its customers, attempting to limit price increases for channels that inevitably get passed on through monthly bills.
The company said in a news release that Twenty-First Century Fox "introduced other channels into negotiations despite those channels not being included in the contract up for renewal."
"It's like we're about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well," Warren Schlichting, Dish's senior vice president of programming, said in an early morning statement.
"Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract."
He added, "We regret the service disruption to our customers, and remain committed to reaching an agreement that promptly returns this content to Dish's programming lineup."