CBS says it remains "far apart" on deal with Dish

A dispute between CBS (CBS) and Dish Network (DISH) could prevent some football fans from tuning in to the NFL's traditional slate of Thanksgiving Day games.

CBS, whose programming has been unavailable to Dish customers since Tuesday in 26 states around the U.S., said Wednesday that it remains "far apart" on terms for a new retransmission deal with the satellite broadcaster.

"Clearly, pulling content providers off the air is Dish's way of doing things. CBS, meanwhile has been attempting to advance discussions with Dish since January of this year," CBS said in a statement. 

"As it stands, Dish customers won't be watching CBS in the days and weeks ahead," the broadcaster added. "Dish is a $23 billion company that clearly cares more about its profits than the consumer."

Dish maintains that it is CBS that opted to black out access to its content for Dish customers. 

"CBS is blocking consumers in an effort to raise carriage rates for local channels and gain negotiating leverage for unrelated cable channels, all with declining viewership on Dish," the company said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The fight stems from a clash between CBS and Dish over so-called affiliate, or "carriage," fees that pay-TV distributors pony up to re-transmit broadcasters' TV signals. Networks want the best deal they can negotiate for their content, while cable and satellite companies push to limit cost hikes that could scare off customers. 

Fees from licensing deals are important to broadcasters both as a way to drive growth and to smooth the rise and fall in their advertising revenue, which can swing sharply. In recent years, squabbles between CBS, Dish, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner Cable and other industry players have resulted in brief programming blackouts for consumers.    

TV station owners' retransmission fees are expected to top $9 billion this year, up from from $7.9 billion in 2016, according to market researcher SNL Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

Jeff Blum, senior vice president at Dish and the company's deputy general counsel, contends CBS is seeking to use its mix of local and national channels to "extort" more money from its customers.

In its statement, CBS accused Dish of undervaluing its content, saying that it has paid another cable network with inferior ratings to CBS more than double what the broadcaster is asking for. CBS also encouraged Dish subscribers who want to watch its programming to consider alternative cable and other TV providers.

At least one lawmaker is trying to broker the peace, if only in the name of football. In a tweet, Sen. Ed Markey. D.-Massachusetts, urged the companies to settle their dispute before his home state New England Patriots face off against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.   

"These contract disputes between Dish and CBS will make a lot of fans frustrated when they tune in to the Patriots on Sunday and see nothing but a blank screen," he said in a statement.