Sinclair Orchestrates Largest TV Blackout in History

Screens Go Dark in 79 Markets for DISH Customers
Sinclair Pulls Plug Despite Agreement on Rates

Washington, D.C. – In what is by far the largest blackout in American history, Sinclair Broadcasting pulled its signal off the air for DISH customers in 79 television markets across the country at 5:00 p.m. ET today. DISH customers across 36 states plus the District of Columbia lost access to 129 different television stations because of Sinclair’s selfish action. The blackout comes after weeks of negotiations and a new rate agreement on Sinclair’s terms. ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy reacted to Sinclair’s record-setting consumer blackout and the broadcaster’s eleventh hour demands:

“Sinclair’s outrageous blackout of DISH customers is a dramatic illustration of why the FCC needs to protect consumers from broadcasters’ brass knuckle tactics that harm consumers. Even after DISH and Sinclair agreed on rates, Sinclair has orchestrated the largest television blackout in American history to force DISH into a carriage agreement for an unrelated cable channel that Sinclair hopes to acquire, but does not even own today. This outrageous blackout is the exclamation point on ATVA’s call for lawmakers and the FCC to take action to protect consumers by reforming our outdated and broken video laws.”

“Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Wheeler proposed measures to protect consumers against this kind of abusive behavior. With the clock ticking on their brazen tactics, Sinclair is trying to game the system while they still can.“

TV Blackouts Have Soared As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens and paid higher bills instead of watching their favorite channels due to at least 533 broadcaster blackouts. The blackouts and bigger TV bills have soared in the past five years and the Sinclair blackout sets the record for the most in one year at 145. The menace of TV blackouts continues to grow:

  • 145 blackouts to date in 2015
  • 107 blackouts in 2014
  • 127 blackouts in 2013
  • 91 blackouts in 2012
  • 51 blackouts in 2011
  • 12 blackouts in 2010

When blackouts finally end, consumers get their programming back, but at a higher cost: SNL Kagan projects that the retransmission revenue broadcasters collect for “free” TV will rise to $6.3 billion in 2015, $7.2 billion in 2016, and $10.3 billion by 2021.

  • SNL Kagan also projects that over time that 50% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks rather than pay for local programming.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of Pay TV bills


The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.




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