DISH Subscribers Could Lose CBS Starting Tomorrow

Update (12/6/14): after a bitter negotiation, DISH and CBS finally reached an agreement and all CBS programming is back live (it was blacked out for a couple days).

cbs-dishIn the latest of the recent programming squabbles, DISH could end up losing CBS tomorrow, 12/4/14, at 7 PM EST. There have been numerous phases throughout the 6-month negotiation, including a Thanksgiving extension to allow folks to catch their NFL action, but this appears to be the tipping point. CBS just publicly stated there will be no more extensions and we tend to believe both sides want at least a short-term resolution, for better or worse.

At the heart of the problem lies the carriage (licensing) fees — to complicate things, CBS just launched “CBS All Access“, an online streaming service of their programming lineup (minus NFL action) for $5.99/mo. From DISH’s perspective, that radically devalues CBS’ content if non-subscribers and cord-cutters can stream some of the channel’s most popular shows via other media (computer, tablet, etc). Of course, with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Roku, etc, folks are getting their TV entertainment from a growing number of ways… and that trend won’t be changing anytime soon. This sort of clash was years in the making. So what’s going to happen with CBS on DISH? Here’s our take on the possible scenarios…

Short-term deal

Probably the easiest thing for both sides is a short-term contract that extends the agreement for 6 months to a year. Rating-wise, CBS’ programming is #1 on TV and we’d be extremely surprised if DISH allowed it to go dark for more than a few days. A short-term agreement also allows both sides to quantify CBS All Access and its impact on their respective bottom lines. Assuming its nominal or at least predictable, I’d expect a longer-term deal (2+ years) to be signed soon thereafter.

Probability: 85/100

Bluff called: Blackout

In the unlikely event DISH takes out the big guns and lets CBS go dark, you can bet there will be major backlash. It doesn’t take long for frustrated subscribers to seek out other options and providers (as seen with previous blackouts on satellite and cable). There’s no precedence with such a high-profile network, but expect the reaction to be swift and aggressive. Even just one Sunday without NFL action could be a big deal (let alone the upcoming playoffs). So, if a blackout does happen on 12/4, I wouldn’t expect it to last past the weekend.

Probability: 15/100

CBS shows at risk

So, which shows could be gone come Friday? To name just a few: NFL, NCIS, Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, 60 Minutes, Scorpion, etc. Whether you love or hate network TV, it’s undeniable CBS carries some blockbusters (and probably always will).

Wrapping Up

While these public negotiations can be frustrating at times, unfortunately, they’re probably not going away anytime soon. The digital TV landscape is rapidly evolving and previous licensing terms don’t always jive with the new dynamics (and when you factor in mobile’s continued growth, it’s a very fluid situation). This CBS issue will set quite the precedent, so a ton of eyes are on it. Here’s hoping both sides can come to an amicable deal and avoid shutting out their loyal subscribers.

Finally, what about DIRECTV? They currently have no open issues with a major TV network, CBS included, and DIRECTV has promised to never blackout a local channel. That’s certainly reassuring but it’s the wild wild west out there, so always stay vigilant. In a few years, satellite providers might eventually shift to an a la mode system (where you only pay for the channels/networks you want). That could end up being the best of both worlds, but don’t expect it anytime soon.

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