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DISH satellite TV customers face losing WTSP-Ch. 10 in dispute with Gannett

For local Dish Network satellite TV customers, it may be the question of the moment:

Why exactly are they on the verge of losing CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10 — among 19 local TV stations owned by Gannett Broadcasting that could be dropped by the service Sunday night?

The channels will disappear from Dish just before midnight Sunday without a new retransmission deal, according to WTSP's website.

Gannett is telling viewers, through text streams that began running across their stations' TV screens Wednesday, that it's a typical fight over fee hikes.

But Dish Network issued a news release Friday saying the dispute is really over its ad-skipping technology, called "AutoHop."

According to a statement from Dish, Gannett has threatened to remove 19 stations from the satellite TV service if it doesn't disable its AutoHop feature allowing viewers using digital video recorders to skip commercials on TV's top broadcast networks with one push of a button. Fox, NBC and CBS already have sued Dish over the feature, which executives there have denounced as a threat to their business.

This may be the first time a broadcaster used its retransmission agreements to threaten Dish, demanding the service either disable the feature or pay massive penalties, according to Dish. The satellite company's statement said Gannett turned down a 200 percent fee increase and its demands would add up to a 300 percent hike.

On-screen text warnings issued by Gannett and a page on WTSP's website outlining the dispute don't mention AutoHop, blaming the dispute on fees.

About 4 percent of the Tampa Bay area market are Dish subscribers.

"We remain committed to continuing to negotiate with Dish right up to that deadline and believe an agreement is possible, as we are seeking nothing more than the same market-based terms that have allowed us to reach deals with TV providers across the country," read a statement from Gannett.

A major component of these retransmission fights has been public relations campaigns attempting to persuade viewers to choose sides. But this may be the biggest fight in which both sides disagree even on the reason for their impasse.

The home page of WTSP's website urges Dish customers to click on a link leading to a Q&A page in which basic questions about the dispute are answered, encouraging the service's customers to consider switching to rival companies such as Bright House Networks or Verizon FiOS.

DISH satellite TV customers face losing WTSP-Ch. 10 in dispute with Gannett 10/05/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 5, 2012 11:00pm]
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