Dish Network subscribers in Austin – and across the nation – have been without Univision-owned channels for more than two months.
With little public progress in negotiations to return those networks to the satellite provider’s lineup, three organizations are now asking Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to “look into Dish’s marketing and consumer practices, especially as related to the Latino community.”
In a letter sent this week to Paxton’s office, the CEOs of the Houston and Rio Grande Valley Hispanic chambers of commerce – as well as the board chairman of the National Hispanic Construction Association – say the groups have requested meetings with Dish to address the blackout, but haven’t received a response.
Dish subscribers no longer have access to Univision, UniMás and Galavision, while folks who subscribe to Dish’s Sling streaming service have lost Univision, UniMás, Galavision, Univision Deportes Network and El Rey.
“Like the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Hispanic Construction Association, we are dedicated to serving the Latino community, and we appreciate the support they deliver,” Dish said in a written statement provided to the American-Statesman. “The situation with Univision is a business dispute, plain and simple.”
Univision says it is the No. 3 most-watched network that Dish carries, regardless of language, and that its various networks combined account for 60 percent of Spanish-language viewership on the Dish Latino package.
“Instead of fulfilling its promise to its customers, Dish has chosen to devalue our programming, disingenuously offering a fraction of what it pays our English-language peers,” Univision said in a recent statement. “Dish should do right by its Spanish-speaking audiences, agree to restore service, and negotiate a good faith agreement.”
Dish, however, disputes those claims.
“Univision executives are seeking a massive rate increase despite reports showing the programmer lost more than 50 percent of its prime-time viewership in the last seven years,” Dish’s written statement said. “We refuse to allow our customers to pay outrageous increases, especially for content that is available for free over the air, as well as available online for substantially less than Univision is trying to charge Dish customers.”
Spats between cable and satellite providers and broadcast and cable networks are nothing new, but typically they are resolved in a matter of days. That has many Latinos concerned, the letter to Paxton says.
“At a time when the Hispanic community is facing so many challenges, it is hard to believe that a company like Dish would take action to inflict further harm on our community – and on top of it, profit from that harm,” the letter says, in part.
Dish, in its messaging to customers, insists the issue is with Univision. In an announcement that some prices would be adjusted by $5 per month during the outage, for instance, it said: “Univision has sent every signal that it’s abandoning Dish Latino and Sling Latino viewers.”
Substitutes for some of the Univision networks have been added, Dish said, and in some cases subscribers are being offered antennas to pick up their local Univision stations over the air, such as Austin’s KAKW Channel 62.
The letter to Paxton claims Dish is still promoting the Univision networks in a “highly misleading manner” in its marketing materials, even though they are not currently available.
“If that were not bad enough, for those consumers who sign up because they expect to receive Univision programs, Dish will not release them from their contracts without the payment of a termination fee of up to $480,” the letter claims.