CBS about to be blacked out in Dish homes?

CBS CEO Les Moonves on Netflix, Rivals
CBS CEO Les Moonves on Netflix, Rivals

The CBS network may -- emphasis on the word may -- go dark in millions of Dish Network homes on Thursday.

That's when Dish's contract to carry CBS expires, and the two sides have yet to sign a new one. For now they're trading barbs in the press, putting pressure on each other and causing some Dish customers to worry about losing access to the Tiffany Network.

The satellite distributor is already missing some programming: eight channels owned by Turner Broadcasting, including CNN, are currently unavailable in Dish Network's 14 million households due to a month-long contract dispute. (Time Warner also owns this web site.)

A Turner web site about the dispute has been urging Dish customers to switch providers. On Tuesday Turner ratcheted up the pressure by warning that Dish is also "threatening to drop" TNT and TBS.

"Our efforts in recent weeks to restore the Turner networks to Dish customers have been rejected at every turn by Dish leadership," a Turner spokeswoman said when asked for comment on Tuesday.

"The upcoming expiration on December 5 of our carriage agreement for TNT and TBS means Dish may drop those networks as well. We remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement that restores our networks to the air and eliminates the risk of Dish removing additional Turner networks from its channel lineup."

Dish did not respond to a request for comment about Turner.

The comments from Turner came on the same day that CBS issued a new statement about its looming contract expiration.

A CBS blackout would be a big deal because it is the single most popular network on American TV, and because it carries popular NFL games on Sunday afternoons through the rest of the year.

CBS and Dish (DISH) may agree to short-term contract extensions while they haggle over the details, but for the time being, Thursday is the deadline.

On Tuesday morning CBS upped the pressure by accusing Dish of "deliberately dragging its feet for months."

"Now, as the deadline nears, Dish appears willing to drop the most popular programming in its entire channel lineup because it won't negotiate the same sort of deal that other cable, satellite and telco companies have struck with CBS," the network's statement said.

In a statement last week, after CBS began speaking publicly about the possibility of a blackout, Dish said, "Only CBS can force a blackout of its channels. Dish is actively working to reach a deal before the contract expires and has successfully negotiated agreements representing hundreds of stations in recent months that benefit all parties, including our viewers."

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