MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Dish Network customers who watch WCOV Fox 20 in the Montgomery television market have probably noticed the absence of popular shows like Bones, House and American Idol in recent days.
The disappearance comes as a result of Dish Network's May 2nd decision to drop WCOV's signal after a dispute regarding carriage fees, the money individual stations charge providers to carry their signal on satellite or cable.
Dish charges approximately $6 per month to customers to receive local channels. WCOV says it wanted about 60 cents per month per customer from that $6 fee. The station said it was even willing to go as low as 50 cents, but no deal has been made.
David Woods, President of Woods Communications and owner of WCOV, said he couldn't provide an exact figure on how many customers were affected but believed it to be "north of 25,000." At a base 25,000 Dish customers, Woods' station would receive approximately $12,500 per month or about $150,000 per year from Dish under a 50 cent per subscriber agreement.
Fox 20 wanted an "outrageous" fee increase, according to Dish, in order to continue carriage of the locally-owned TV station. The Englewood, Colorado based satellite company would not discuss specific details of the negotiations but would say that it would be willing to pay WCOV the same rates as other competing cable providers.
Woods, who says his offer is fair and reasonable, accused Dish of "misleading" its customers saying he asked for a nine-day negotiation extension in recent days. Instead, according to Woods, Dish granted an additional two days before pulling the plug on May 2.
When Dish ended service with the Fox affiliate that Monday evening a notice to the cable company's customers blamed WCOV for the empty channel explaining that it was Dish that had requested an extension only to be declined by WCOV.
Woods believes Dish isn't being fair because he's a single station, stand alone company that large providers can attempt to "squeeze".
Now, a behind the scenes fight is being waged by WCOV and Dish over carriage fees and a return to the lineup. WCOV has hired former Alabama Attorney General Troy King's law firm, King and Nix.
"The dispute is pretty simple to understand," King said. "When it comes to Dish paying a fair price for the programming you want to see though, they think that less than two cents a day is too much for them to pay...not surprisingly, Dish didn't lower your bill when they took the number one program on television, American Idol, off their system."
It appears the only thing WCOV and Dish Network are in agreement upon at the moment is that they continue work to find a resolution. How long it might take to reach that resolution is unknown.
"We're optimists," Woods said. "We want to be on Dish."