By Malathi Nayak
(Reuters) - Satellite TV operator Dish Network Corp blacked out the National Football League-owned sports channels, NFL Network and NFL RedZone, the first time the league has been dropped by a TV services provider, the NFL said.
The NFL channels went dark on Dish's network on Thursday evening, after a disagreement over distribution fees.
“Our contract with NFL Network has expired. We remain open to a fair offer that allows us to carry this content at an appropriate value to our customers," Dish said in a statement.
The NFL said it currently reaches 60 million homes and has set up a website that lists television networks that still carry its channels so viewers can watch games through other providers such as Comcast Corp's XFINITY and AT&T Inc's DIRECTV. http://www.iwantnflnetwork.com
Dish is also locked in a battle with Tribune Media Co over fees to carry Tribune-owned stations and cable network WGN America.
Cable and satellite TV distributors are increasingly negotiating hard with programmers, resisting demands for price increases to carry content at a time when viewers are being drawn to Netflix Inc, Amazon Prime and other online services. Such contract standoffs have made blackouts commonplace in the television industry.
Dish said on Sunday about 5 million subscribers had lost access to 42 Tribune-owned local channels and cable network WGN America in 33 markets across 34 states and the District of Columbia.
On Thursday, Dish asked Tribune to agree to an arbitration process to restore its channels. Dish has said it has been giving customers free antennas to help them gain access to Tribune's programming. In response, Tribune suggested the U.S. Federal Communications Commission monitor contract talks between the two parties.
"Regrettably, we can only interpret Tribune's unwillingness to participate in binding arbitration as an indication that it actually is angling for rates that are above fair market," Dish's executive vice president of programming, Warren Schlichting, said in statement on Friday.
Tribune has maintained that it is offering Dish the same rate it has under deals with other pay-TV partners.
(Reporting by Malathi Nayak in New York and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Steve Orlofsky)