Dish Could Ditch Turner Networks


EchoStar chief Charlie Ergen is taking aim at Turner Broadcasting System, threatening to pull such channels as CNN, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies off his Dish Network at the end of the year, if Turner does not moderate its license-fee demands.

Dish's carriage contracts for several Turner nets, also including Boomerang, Headline News, CNNfn and Turner South, expire Dec. 31. With just a few weeks remaining, negotiations on a new pact have soured. Deals for Turner's biggest networks, TNT and TBS Superstation, are said to be unaffected.

In a Dish-televised chat with subscribers last week (something he does regularly), Ergen said Turner is demanding double-digit rate increases but the networks' ratings don't justify them.

"We feel the rate increase is an unreasonable request for our customers to bear," said an EchoStar spokesperson.

Cartoon Network gets on average 9¢ per subscriber per month, while CNN and Headline News pull in about 38¢, according to Kagan World Media Estimates.

A Turner spokesperson would say only, "We are not going to negotiate this deal in the press."

Ergen also said that his DBS company is in renewal talks with Viacom over some of its cable networks, but he didn't identify any specific channels. Those talks, according to Dish, are progressing well.

Over at DBS rival DirecTV, there is only one channel in jeopardy of going dark on New Year's Eve: Universal Television Group's pop-culture net Trio. DirecTV says it is hopeful that the two sides can work out a deal. But, to warn subscribers, DirecTV was running a crawl on the channel notifying customers the possibility that the channel might come down. Now talks are said to be going well and, last Thursday, DirecTV agreed to remove the crawl. Said a Universal Television spokesperson, "we look forward to being part of DirecTV for a long time to come."