Television feud ends

Local stations and DISH Network sign contract

The local offices of FOX20 and KRCR Channel 7 in downtown Chico.

The local offices of FOX20 and KRCR Channel 7 in downtown Chico.

PHOTO BY tom gascoyne

The month-long contract dispute between DISH Network and New York City-based Bonten Media Group, which owns Chico’s FOX20 and Redding’s ABC affiliate, KRCR Channel 7, has been settled after a month of bickering and lack of airing of San Francisco 49ers football games.

An agreement was reached between the two companies Sunday night and the signals were once again picked up for broadcast by DISH, Bonten Media CEO Randall Bongarten said on Monday (Jan. 13).

“We are really pleased we are able to resolve this disagreement and we certainly know how disruptive this has been to subscribers of DISH,” Bongarten said in a phone interview. “We apologize, but we are glad it has been resolved.

“We made an agreement fairly early this morning, just after midnight,” he said. “I was really hoping we’d get it done before this weekend’s [football] games.”

The dispute was over Bonten’s asking DISH to pay it three cents per customer per day to air the stations. In a full-page ad that ran for weeks in North State newspapers, including the Chico Enterprise-Record, DISH said: “ABC 7 AND FOX20 WANT YOU TO PAY 3X MORE FOR THE SAME SHOWS.” The ad urged customers to call Andrew Stewart, the station manager, to voice their concerns.

At the same time, KRCR posted this message on its website: “Dish Network has chosen not to provide the KRCR and FOX20 signals and there has been misleading information sent to you about why they have made this choice. It is important to provide you with the facts about Bonten Media’s negotiations with DISH.”

Stewart said at the time that the fees being requested were on par with what other signal carriers were paying.

“We are asking for three cents per day per subscriber, which is a fair price, and it’s commensurate with what we’re charging other satellite and cable companies we do business with,” he said. “It’s not anything that is outlandish.”

Stewart said he, too, is glad the impasse is over, but could not provide details on the contract.

“I will say we are happy to come to an agreement,” Stewart said when contacted by phone. “We apologize for the loss of service over the past few weeks.”

CEO Bongarten said only that the contract is a “multiyear agreement” and could not go into detail.

Back on Dec. 8, the day the stations went dead on DISH, FOX20 was slated to carry a football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, arguably the biggest contest of the season for each team up to that point.

That blackout, and those that followed, caught the attention of many local football fans who subscribe to DISH. For more than a month, the Colorado-based DISH and Bonten bickered and blamed each other for the impasse.

The lack of NFL broadcasts on FOX20 had local football fans scrambling on Sundays to bars and restaurants such as The Graduate, where they could catch the game. Ironically, perhaps, the contract agreement came one week before the 49ers and the Seahawks meet again, this time for the NFC championship.