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Spat Between HBO and Dish Network Leaves Subscribers in the Dark

More than two million HBO and Cinemax subscribers woke up to find the channels gone Thursday morning as the pay cable network and Dish Network battle over carriage fees.

Both Dish Network and Sling TV subscribers were unable to access any of the HBO stations, the first time the network has gone dark in its 40-year history. Subscribers were also unable to log in to HBO’s mobile app to view programming.

The blackout, which went into effect Thursday at midnight ET, marks a split between HBO and one of its biggest partners. Dish has temporarily taken other networks off the air before as part of its negotiating tactic, including CBS, Fox, and Viacom.

“During our 40-plus years of operation, HBO has always been able to reach agreement with our valued distributors and our services have never been taken down or made unavailable to subscribers due to an inability to conclude a deal,” HBO said in a statement. “Unfortunately, DISH is making it extremely difficult, responding to our good-faith attempts with unreasonable terms. Past behavior shows that removing services from their customers is becoming all too common a negotiating tactic for them. We hope the situation with DISH changes soon but, in the meantime, our valued customers should take advantage of the other ways to access an HBO subscription so they can continue to enjoy our acclaimed programming.”

Dish, in a statement of its own, said the blackout was the fault of HBO’s new parent company AT&T.

“Plain and simple, the merger created for AT&T immense power over consumers,” said Andy LeCuyer, DISH senior vice president of programming. “It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors. This may be the first of many HBO blackouts for consumers across the country. AT&T no longer has incentive to come to an agreement on behalf of consumer choice; instead, it’s been given the power to grab more money or steal away customers.”

Dish subscribers who pay for HBO and Cinemax will receive credits on their bill for the duration of the blackout.

There’s no average length of time for a network blackouts on Dish Network. CBS and Dish resolved their dispute after 12 hours off the air, while Univision has been blacked out for four months and running.