Millions of Dish Customers Probably Won’t Be Able to Watch Thanksgiving Football. Here’s Why
The time-honored tradition of Thanksgiving Day football watching is in jeopardy for millions of Americans due to a high-stakes stand-off between CBS Corp. and Dish Network.
Due the corporate impasse, CBS content disappeared from the channel offerings of Dish (DISH) customers earlier this week, and on Thanksgiving Eve, CBS (CBS)—broadcaster of Thursday’s NFL game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Cowboys—sounded pessimistic about reaching a resolution.
“We remain far apart on terms,” CBS said in a statement.
“As it stands,” CBS said, “Dish customers won’t be watching CBS in the days and weeks ahead.” The means “Dish subscribers will not be able to see CBS’s coverage of Thanksgiving football, along with NCIS, Big Bang Theory, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and 60 Minutes.” CBS acknowledged that there are other alternative providers that carry CBS “and Dish subscribers would be wise to consider switching to one of those options.”
CBS’s pointed statement came a day after CBS went off the air for some 3 million Dish customers in 18 markets across 26 states. CBS described this as Dish “dropping” its channels, while Dish said it was the result of a “CBS blackout.”
Regardless, the corporate dispute remains—as of Thursday morning—unsettled, putting at risk Thanksgiving revelers’ post-turkey football plans. The Chargers-Cowboys game on CBS is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
Dish did not immediately return Fortune‘s request for updates on the situation; a spokesperson for CBS said there were no updates beyond the company’s Wednesday statement.
The kerfuffle stretches all the way back to January, when the two sides began negotiating a new contract to determine what Dish would pay CBS in exchange for carrying the broadcaster’s content. Dish executives say that CBS has demanded that the satellite TV provider cough up a substantially higher retransmission fee—an increase of as much as 40%—to carry CBS stations, which include The Smithsonian Channel, Pop, and CBS Sports Network.
“CBS is attempting to tax Dish customers on programming that’s losing viewers, tax Dish customers on programming available for free over the air, and tax Dish customers for content available directly from CBS,” Warren Schlichting, Dish executive vice president of marketing, programming and media sales, said in statement released Tuesday. He added: “It’s regrettable and unnecessary that CBS is bringing its greed into the homes of millions of families this Thanksgiving.”
As a work-around, Dish is installing in-home over-the-air antennas for free; the devices should provide eligible customers with reception of CBS despite the blackout.
CBS, for its part, said in its Wednesday statement that Dish has “paid at least one cable network more than double our asking price, for far less than half the ratings. ”
“[I]t is important to remember,” CBS said, “that Dish subscribers watch CBS more than any other broadcast or cable outlet.”
Talks between content distributors and programmers have become more fraught in recent years amid wide-spread “cord-cutting,” by which viewers forego traditional cable packages in favor of streaming shows online.
At the same time, history may provide some hope to viewers eager to watch football this Thanksgiving. CBS and Dish engaged in a similar standoff in 2014; it lasted 12 hours.
Reuters contributed to this report.