Dish Sues Tribune Because It Called The Company 'Dishgusting'

from the self-inflicted-mortal-wound dept

For years now, consumers have been stuck in the middle of increasingly-ugly carriage fee disputes between broadcasters and cable companies. Usually they go something like this: a broadcaster demands a massive rate hike from cable companies to carry their channels. Cable TV providers balk, and the broadcaster pulls access to the channels in question until the cable provider pays up. Consumers not only lose access to content they're paying for (refunds are never provided), but they're also hammered by ads from both sides trying to get consumers to call and bitch at the other guy for being greedy.

Fast forward a month or two, a new confidential deal is struck, and the rate hikes are immediately passed on to consumers. Yes, broadcasters are predominately at fault for demanding insane price hikes at a time when consumers are cutting the cord. But cable providers aren't faultless either. They quite frequently are broadcasters themselves (as with regional sports networks or Comcast NBC Universal), and when they aren't -- they're usually just as busy tacking on their own wide assortment of misleading fees and hardware charges.

In short, everybody in the chain is violently milking a dying cash cow, oblivious to the actual needs of the consumer.

Earlier this month Dish Network balked at a price hike demand from Tribune Broadcasting, resulting in Tribune pulling Dish customer access to 42 local Tribune channels in 33 markets across 34 states and the District of Columbia. That resulted in Tribune creating a salty new website accusing Dish of being a "regulatory profiteer" and urging Dish customers to switch to another pay TV provider -- pretty standard for these kinds of inane disputes. The website also makes some not-particularly-creative use of the Dish brand name, accusing the satellite TV provider of being "dishgusting" and "dishturbing":
In the escalating arms race of stupidity, Dish has now sued Tribune Broadcasting (pdf), claiming that the website and advertisements that publicize the feud are causing serious harm to Dish:
"Tribune’s publication of the misleading and deceptive statements on its channels and these websites causes actual harm to DISH. Among other things, DISH’s subscribers flood DISH’s customer service lines with questions about the Tribune messages, some subscribers cancel their DISH subscriptions, and DISH’s goodwill as a reliable service provider is eroded. Tribune is therefore deliberately and purposefully interfering with DISH’s contracts with its subscribers as well as with DISH’s prospective economic advantage, both through current subscribers who terminate their agreement with DISH and through prospective subscribers who elect not to sign up for DISH services."
To Dish's credit, they're one of the only pay TV providers standing up to broadcast rate hikes at a time when customers increasingly have made it clear they want cheaper, more flexible channel lineups. Also to their credit, Dish is one of the only companies with the guts to actively offer a product that makes this happen (Sling TV), despite the obvious risk of cannibalizing its own, more profitable legacy TV customer base. But Dish has been involved now in fifteen blackouts of this type in the last three years, and it's not doing much to slow down broadcaster rate hike demands.

And while broadcasters do deserve the lion's share of blame for these fights, the idea that anybody in the broadcaster cable TV chain actually cares about the customer is a stretch. No matter which side "wins" in these ugly public feuds, the consumer always loses. They lose access to content they pay for, never see refunds, and generally see rate hikes no matter what the final contract looks like. Cable TV providers then tack on some misleading below-the-line fees of their own (like the "broadcast TV" fee, or usage caps if they also offer broadband) to ensure they're not the ones footing the bill.

Ultimately, these fights only illustrate how the legacy pay TV sector is utterly tone deaf to consumer desire despite years of warnings on the wind. Cable TV executives see the giant meteor (cord cutting, streaming TV competition) coming, but they just think the best possible response to the looming cataclysm is a one-two punch of denial and speeding up the rate at which they gouge paying customers. These are dinosaurs drinking cocktails ahead of the disruption apocalypse.

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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Jul 2016 @ 2:16pm

    Slow, slow death

    Big media removes shoes and socks, eyes foot menacingly, pulls out their 9mm equivalent, takes aim and fires. They then think about whom they might blame for this action, and thinks, and thinks.

    Meanwhile they are bleeding out very very slowly, but bleeding out none the less. They will probably get some intravenous blood along the way, but not enough and they will never repair the hole in their foot. So sad.

    Small media sees opportunity and steps right in, carefully avoiding the pool of blood amassing. Hopefully!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NoNameTodayJustLikeMostDays, 6 Jul 2016 @ 2:42pm

    LPT: Monday mornings is when you should call

    Dish subscriber? Want to take advantage of this and the increase fees you're feeling?

    Call early on a Monday morning when the call centers have coupons to use.

    Let them know your angst, that you're upset, et and give them a chance to use one of more of those coupons, from a premium service you don't have to reduced rates on some items or perhaps a no charge upgrade to the hopper - negotiate with the phone reps...

    Monday mornings are the time to call if you want something back from your arrangement with Dish.

    Just remember a phone rep is just an employee, they don't set company policy, their managers who you can/should ask to speak to will do everything to keep you as a customer. It's okay to ask for a manager to get more from Dish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2016 @ 3:38pm

      Re: LPT: Monday mornings is when you should call

      not just dish, cable companies in general... having worked as tech support for a few though, i've never heard of "coupons".
      get to retention, then make them beg. Their job is to save the account, your job is to make them work for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PRMan (profile), 6 Jul 2016 @ 3:16pm

    Call and cancel

    They shouldn't be able to charge you an ETF because they are no longer carrying the channels that they advertised.

    IANAL, so YMMV.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2016 @ 3:43pm

    It seems to me that the cable companies could handle this more simply.

    (1) remove the offending content generator from all packages.

    (2) Accept whatever rate is offered by the content generator....

    (3) Subject to the proviso that it will be billed directly to customers who pay for the channels separately (with a _really_-small billing-service-charge markup, so the cable company can't be accused of gouging)

    (3) Lower everyone's cable bills some (small) fraction of the original rate being paid--cable companies are congenitally incapable of not gouging someone, so gouge here while simultaneously lowering the bill.

    It wouldn't be a _highly_ profitable deal for the cable company, but it would be an absolute assurance that no _other_ content provider would try the same trick.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 6 Jul 2016 @ 4:58pm

    Very dishingenuous behavior from a dishpicable company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JBDragon (profile), 6 Jul 2016 @ 5:37pm

    What I don't get is this Whole Rebroadcasting fee crap!!! You are helping the broadcast channels reach more people and/or get a better picture in some cases. You are in fact doing them a favor. They already get paid with the Commercials they advertise. Remember this is stuff you can get for FREE with a Antenna!!! Plus in general a better picture. Yet they want to rape Cable and satellite company's to re-transmit something people can pick up for FREE. It's kind of card to be on the cable and satellite company's side on this.

    The net effect is everyone bill goes up more and more people cut the cord, and they lose subscribers. I had my $50 a year Internet only service from Comcast. I was going to call them up and see about dropping it to 50Mbps which is fast enough for my use. After my year expired. It was cheaper to get their 75Mbps service, Plus either HBO or Showtime, a free cheapo cable box I still don't have hooked up, along with some basic channels and their StreamPix service or whatever it's called I've never used and now I'm paying like $45 a month. Really, Comcast is giving me free HBO, which is how I'm looking at it. I just use the HBOGo now app. The only lame thing is Comcast won't allow HBOGo on the Tivo!!! Works on my other devices though like AppleTV and ROKU. This is there way to try to keep people paying for TV service, I just could really care less.

    The Antenna and Netflix is most of my watching. I don't even have time to watch much HBO but I get it. It was cheaper to get this bundle then Internet Only!!! I'm good for another year, and next year I'll see what new deal I can get to keep my cost at $50 a month or less.

    The whole bundle thing really needs to go. As far as I'm concerned, have the Cable and Satellite company's charge by Channel. In fact, set the prices based on what they have to pay for them. So you would get freebies if you wanted like HSN. Maybe ESPN is $15, other channels could be 50 cents, $1, $5, maybe free because they want people to get it and watch the channel. They are making their money on commercials and the more viewers, the more money.

    So if the Tribune (I've never heard of) want some huge increase, let them have it. Charge per user that wants it. If it goes up $10 for that channel, few people will get it, let alone pay for it. Some of these company's that have a number of channels, maybe they can bundle their channels for a lower cost if you got them all. Again, A-La-Cart!!!

    One of the things that pissed me off was all these expensive sports channels I had to pay for that I NEVER watched. I don't care about ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNNews, Fox Sports, and all the others. Let the people that love sports pay for it. Why am I subsidizing it? There's enough sports on the broadcast channels for my needs.

    As these prices keep being jacked up, more people will cut the cord and everyone, the cable/Satellite company's lose and the content providers. I can't get their channel with a antenna. Oh well. What I don't see I can't miss!!! They disappear!!! Who wins in the end?

    The only thing I hate, is having to see these banners on Broadcast channels I pick up with my Antenna. I don't feel sorry for CBS or whoever that cuts the feed. At some point you have to play hardball and not cave, because look, one does it and request a huge fee increase and there's everyone else with their hands out also wanting a huge fee increase. I got tired of that game and CUT THE CORD, at least the best that I could with the cheapest option that made sense. The cable box they shipped me is still in that box! I'd have to run a new cable just to use it and I just could care less. My bill is a little cheaper and my Internet speed seems just as fast as always and I got a bonus of HBO thrown in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ysth (profile), 6 Jul 2016 @ 7:37pm

    No accusation there

    The website (at least the picture of it shown here) does not accuse dish of being a regulatory profiteer - it just quotes someone else doing so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2016 @ 9:00pm

    Nothing to see here, just a couple of drunken vagrants rolling in the gutter. Move along before one of them pukes on your shoes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 3:21pm

      Re:

      Agreed; talk about unclean hands! I am a Dish subscriber and when I try to watch the pulled channels or look at them in the program guide, there is a message with the phone number of the pulled channel's station manager and instructions to complain. I guess Dish doesn't like it when the stations they are having these disputes with pull the same shenanigans.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 7 Jul 2016 @ 12:33am

    Dish It Up

    While not dish-ceptive or dish-onest, the lawsuit (as well as the ads that prompted it) is dishtasteful and dishappointing, not to mention dishruptive and dishtructive. Maybe they will dish-ide to dishtance themselves from this dish-cision and dishmiss the case with prejudish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Unsatisfied, 7 Jul 2016 @ 3:15pm

    Trashy dish

    Dish is a very sorry company uggh no good programing and charging you for their trashy service!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 4:00pm

    I don't know if this is standard practice for Dish Network, but I checked my current bill from them and I did receive a credit for the Tribune stations I haven't been able to watch for the last month. I don't remember if I have received such a credit in the past.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2016 @ 12:09pm

    All of you complaining to Dish, just remember that you are helping Tribune charge Dish more money for channels which are available for free with an antenna, charges which Dish will pass on to you in the form of higher bills.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    M.ichael P, 3 Sep 2016 @ 10:38pm

    The blackouts over....but

    Look, Tribune needed the additional money to subsidize all of the little FOX affiliates that don't make money in their markets... If a local can't pay its own bills, I say turn it off. If you can't afford to pay the wannabe actor - anchors, send them packing. Tribune got too big for their britches, can't pay their bills and want us to pay for broadcast rights they get for free. I get it, it's a business, but sometimes when a business gets too big to be profitable, you have to restructure, down size and live within your means. You don't charge more for the same product and expect your customers to keep coming back. Sooner or later they figure out they can live with out your product and flip you the bird. Tribune can KMA... Thanks for standing strong Dish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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