Dish Network dumps Kings broadcasts
Satellite network is at odds with Comcast on pricing
The Sacramento Kings are on the air — unless you own a Dish Network satellite box.
Blank screens have replaced Tyreke Evans drives to the basket for Dish customers in Yuba-Sutter, a week after the satellite carrier cut off Comcast SportsNet California at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 24 in a financial dispute with the cable television giant that owns the channel.
The blackout has kept Mid-Valley sports fans away from Kings basketball and San Jose Sharks hockey games carried by CSN California, one of 10 regional sports networks owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp.
Dish spokeswoman Francie Bauer said the firm does not break down how many of its 14.2 million subscribers view the sports channel. CSN California is available in about 3.6 million households, and also broadcasts Oakland Athletics baseball games.
Dish's cutoff came 12 hours after a Federal Communications Commission arbitrator ruled in Comcast's favor in a battle over how much the satellite firm should pay Comcast to carry CSN California.
"Our position is they are in breach of contract. We expect them to abide by the arbitrator's terms," said Tim Fitzpatrick, spokesman for Comcast Sports Group.
On Wednesday, Englewood, Colo.-based Dish struck back, arguing it has met Comcast's price-per-subscriber demand for the sports channel but will not charge the fee to viewers unwilling to order it. Spokeswoman Francie Bauer also attacked Comcast's dual status as a TV producer and cable carrier — the nation's largest — as a conflict of interest.
"Comcast is our largest cable competitor, which we believe prevents them from offering Dish Network a fair deal," Bauer said in a statement. "If we accept Comcast's demands, it will embolden the company to continue to make outrageous demands for its other channels."
Hours after the blackout started, Comcast sent a complaint letter to William Lake, the FCC media bureau chief, seeking a meeting between the two companies. No new negotiations were announced Wednesday.
Comcast and Dish also are in arbitration over carriage fees for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, which broadcasts San Francisco Giants baseball and Golden State Warriors basketball. CSN Bay Area remains on the air in Yuba-Sutter.
The station had aired on Dish without a contract since September 2009 as the two sides tried to work out a carriage fee — a dispute that has knocked more than 20 other sports networks off Dish systems in the last two months. Nineteen local branches of Fox Sports Net and the New York-based MSG network went dark Oct. 1, and while Dish signed a new transmission deal with Fox after nearly a month, MSG's two channels remain unavailable.
Staff at Yuba City's Happy Viking and the PreGame Bar & Grill of Marysville said both have been spared from the CSN California blackout, as their satellite feeds come from DirecTV. PreGame has become a temporary refuge from the corporate tiff for some basketball fans, said co-owner Tim McKinney.
"I do get quite a few customers who have Dish, who come here to watch the Kings because they're blacked out at home," he said.
"I can't understand why they're Kings fans, though," he added with a chuckle.
CONTACT reporter Howard Yune at 749-4708 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and discuss this story at SutterLife.com.