Dish Net­work’s cus­tomers cut off from HBO


The busi­ness dis­pute that yanked HBO off the air for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans on Nov. 1 is en­ter­ing its sec­ond week with no signs of a respite.

As many as 2.5 mil­lion cus­tomers of HBO have lost ac­cess to shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “West­world” through Dish Net­work, Amer­ica’s sec­ond-largest satel­lite TV provider. The black­out af­fects an­other 10.2 mil­lion sub­scribers who aren’t signed up for HBO but who could be po­ten­tial cus­tomers of the chan­nel.

It’s the first time HBO has ever “gone dark,” in the par­lance of TV ex­ecs. View­ers are be­ing caught in the mid­dle, with po­ten­tial con­se­quences on both sides: An ex­tended out­age could lead to sig­nif­i­cant cus­tomer losses.

The stand­off be­tween Dish and HBO stems from a seem­ingly run-of-the-mill con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tion over whether Dish should pay HBO for a guar­an­teed num­ber of cus­tomers, whether those sub­scribers ma­te­ri­al­ize or not.

But it also takes place against the back­drop of a his­toric Jus­tice Depart­ment ef­fort to scru­ti­nize the in­creas­ingly con­cen­trated me­dia in­dus­try and to un­wind the merger that gave con­trol of HBO to one of the na­tion’s big­gest tele­com com­pa­nies: AT&T.

The im­passe re­flects the legacy tele­vi­sion busi­ness’s dire con­di­tion. What be­gan as a trickle of con­sumers to­ward dig­i­tal TV al­ter­na­tives, such as Net­flix and Hulu, has turned into a tor­rent, with an­a­lysts such as eMar­keter pre­dict­ing that 33 mil­lion Amer­i­cans will have given up their pay-TV sub­scrip­tions by the end of the year.

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