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Dish's blackout of college football on Fox Sports 1 bad for Pac-12 fans

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Fox’s upstart cable/satellite network Fox Sports 1 is only a year old and is already embroiled in its first carriage dispute. In an odd and somewhat unprecedented move, Dish Network announced that it will black out four college football games this weekend because of a rate dispute with the Fox-owned outlet.

None of the four contests involve Cal or Stanford, but two of them feature other Pac-12 squads. They are Rutgers vs. Washington State on Thursday, and Colorado St. vs. Colorado on Friday. Two other matchups that are of little significance to Bay Area viewers will also be blacked out on Dish: North Dakota State vs. Iowa State on Saturday, and SMU vs. Baylor on Sunday.

Dish launched a web page at Dishsportsvalue.com to clarify its position. “Fox agreed to pay an inflated price for certain sports events on Fox Sports 1”. “Now, Fox is demanding we pay them a significant additional charge to carry these events. We are unwilling to pass these costs on to our customers.” Fox Sports has not returned fire.

If accurate, this situation is unprecedented because a cable/satellite channel has never asked for a fee above and beyond the negotiated per-subscriber charge from Multiple System Operators, like Dish, to carry specific programs. In other words, up till now, MSOs either carry FS1 or they don’t. Dish reached an agreement with Fox to carry FS1 at launch and has been doing so for a year. Why this agreement wouldn’t cover college football is unknown.

Also unknown is how much extra Fox is charging Dish, and whether this dispute covers all college football on the outlet or just these four games. This issue has apparently not affected other MSOs such as Comcast, AT&T, and DirecTV.

If this impasse lasts all season long, it’ll eventually affect local Dish subscribers. Right now, the only scheduled contest on FS1 featuring one of our Pac-12 teams is Cal’s October 24 scrimmage against Oregon. But since most Pac-12 matchups after Week 3 haven’t been scheduled yet, there’s a good chance FS1 will have more kickoffs involving Cal or Stanford.

It’s another potential source of frustration for Pac-12 fans. DirecTV has been unable to come to terms with the conference to carry the Pac-12 Network, though Dish has. With another satellite provider having negotiation problems, there are now fewer choices to ensure you’ll be able to watch all Stanford or Cal matchups.

As the cost of sports rights fees continues to skyrocket, it seems like there are more opportunities for the “grown-ups” negotiating our ability to watch these events to act like children. Will this issue get resolved before it impacts local fans? Don’t hold your breath.

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