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Fox sports channels and FX dropped from Dish Network

October 1, 2010 |  8:42 am

In an increasingly contentious battle over price hikes, News Corp.'s Fox pulled several of its cable channels -- including 19 regional sports channels -- from satellite broadcaster Dish Networks early Friday morning.

The channels included in the blackout were FX, National Geographic Channel and such popular regional sports outlets as Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket, two channels that are scheduled to broadcast this weekend's season-ending games of the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Fox broadcast network, local Fox television stations and the Fox News Channel were not part of the contract being negotiated, and remain available to Dish's 14.3 million customers.

"The proposal we’ve offered Dish is fair and in line with the tremendous value we provide," Fox said in a statement. "We regret the inconvenience to our viewers, but Dish has asserted its subscribers do not value our channels and has made a decision to go forward without them."

Dish, meanwhile, charged that Fox's demands were akin to price-gouging.  Dish, in a statement, said that Fox was seeking an "unprecedented rate increase of more than 50%," a charge that a Fox spokesman called a "gross overstatement." Fox declined to say how much it was demanding from Dish.

Dave Shull, senior vice president of programming for Dish Network, said in a statement:  "Our customers should not be held hostage in order to finance Fox's irresponsible acquisition of sports rights. Consumers are already burdened enough in this challenging economy."

Such disputes are becoming common in the television industry. Dish and other television distributors are struggling to hold the line on pricing rather than face additional wrath of consumers angry about seemingly ever-increasing monthly bills. Meanwhile, programming costs -- including sports rights fees -- continue to escalate and programmers, including Fox, are attempting to raise their fees to compensate.

Later this month, the two companies -- Fox, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., and Dish Networks, based outside Denver and run by Charlie Ergen -- will wrestle over fees for the Fox broadcast network, which airs such popular shows as "Glee," "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy." That contract is set to expire on Oct. 31 -- during the network's coverage of the World Series.

-- Meg James