WRAL, FOX 50 return to DISH lineup in time for Olympics after months of dispute

·3 min read

After a more than six-month-long dispute and channel outage, WRAL and WRAZ FOX 50 are available again to DISH Network subscribers after the companies reached a multi-year agreement.

WRAL and FOX 50, both owned by Capitol Broadcasting Co., were taken off DISH’s lineup in December amid a dispute over carriage fees, The News & Observer previously reported. DISH, like other carriers, pays cable networks and TV stations a monthly license fee in order to carry their signals.

“We’re really sorry that the viewer got put in the middle of this dispute,” said Joel Davis, general manager of WRAL and FOX 50. “The last thing we want is for viewers to not be able to see our channels. That doesn’t help them, it doesn’t help us.”

The return of both local channels to DISH on Friday coincided with the start of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo — an event that Davis said “helped get both sides motivated” to come to an agreement.

For more information about how to watch the games, check out The N&O’s guide on how and when to stream the Olympics.

Other stations saw similar disputes in 2020

Davis said Saturday he was restricted in how much he could share about the dispute due to nondisclosure agreements.

But he said negotiations with the network “didn’t reflect the value that we brought to them.”

“If you look at the last quarter of ratings before we went off DISH,” Davis said, “Nielsen shows we were the most watched station of all channels for DISH subscribers.”

Nielsen ratings are used in the industry to measure TV audiences.

DISH declined an N&O request Saturday for an interview.

In a statement provided by email, the network thanked customers for their patience and said that it was “pleased to announce that DISH and Capitol Broadcasting have reached a multi-year agreement and your local channels have been restored.”

In December, a carriage dispute between DISH and Nexstar Media Group led to network subscribers losing access to CBS 17, The N&O reported. That dispute — which saw 164 local Nexstar stations taken off the air in 115 markets, including CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox network affiliates — was resolved by the end of the month.

DISH saw similar disputes arise last year with the E.W. Scripps Co., Apollo and the N.F.L. Network.

On the network’s website, in a page explaining disputes, it said they are “not uncommon within the pay-TV industry.”

“All pay-TV providers face disputes with channel owners,” the company wrote. “In fact, just last year there were over 200 channel blackouts across the pay-TV industry.”

But Davis said while other providers may have “a sporadic outage here and there,” the dispute with DISH became “the most difficult negotiation we’ve ever been a part of.”

“If you look at the big picture of what DISH has been doing across the country, I would raise the question of: If you’re a subscriber to DISH, is that where you want to be long term?” he said. “Or do you want to go with another provider that has a better record of not having blackouts of this length?”

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