Dish TV view­ers are cut off from HBO

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - MARKET MOVERS - By Brian Fung

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 hit shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “West­world” through Dish Net­work, Amer­ica’s sec- ond-largest satel­lite TV provider.

The black­out af­fects an­other 10.2 mil­lion Dish sub­scribers who aren’t signed up for HBO but who could be po­ten­tial cus­tomers of the premium en­ter­tain­ment chan­nel.

It’s the first time HBO has ever “gone dark,” in the par­lance of TV ex­ec­u­tives.

View­ers are be­ing caught in the mid­dle, with po­ten­tial con­se­quences on both sides: An ex­tended out­age could lead to sig­nif­i­cant cus- tomer losses.

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

But the im­passe car­ries enor­mous stakes that re­flect the legacy tele­vi­sion busi- ness’ dire con­di­tion.

What be­gan as a trickle of con­sumers to­ward dig­i­tal TV al­ter­na­tives, such as Net­flix and Hulu, has turned into a tor­rent.

W ith both Di s h and AT&T re­port­ing even steeper-than-ex­pected de­clines in their tra­di­tional TV sub­scriber base in re­cent months, the pres­sure to re­tain cus­tomers is in­tense, an­a­lysts say.

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