Not to be outdone, DISH blacks out 164 stations

Channel blackouts may not have been “a thing” for much of the year but they’re back with a vengeance in December. This time the culprit is Nexstar Media Group, whose contract with DISH expired overnight. This means 164 local channels, as well as WGN America, have been taken off DISH systems since there is no carriage agreement.

If that name sounds familiar…

You may remember Nexstar as the company that created a similar blackout situation back in 2019 for AT&T customers. That was a rare, seven week blackout in the summer. Funny enough, it was resolved days before the premiere of NFL football. Of course it was, because these things seem like they always get resolved quickly when there are real consequences.

5 Million customers affected

Over one-third of DISH’s customer base has lost a local channel due to this blackout. This comes at a time when people are more worried than ever about their basic health and welfare.

A year ago the blackouts on AT&T affected only about 120 stations. Since then, Nexstar has acquired Tribune, owner of some very large stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas and Houston. You can view their attractive and interactive map here. About 63% of the country is served by at least one of their stations.

There’s one clear culprit here

Of course whenever there are carriage disputes like this, both sides like to point fingers at each other. But, as we have learned, this sort of thing always comes down to money. Not only that it always comes down to the same problem. Content providers want too much of it. Since ratings overall have been down consistently for generations, it’s fair to say that they’re down for the Nexstar-owned stations as well. Yet, it’s also fair to guess that Nexstar is asking more money for their new contract than they got in the old contract.

I’m sure Nexstar’s lawyers are crowing about the large stations they represent. But if you do look at that interactive map, you’ll see that the biggest stations like Los Angeles’ KTLA and Chicago’s WGN, aren’t major network affiliates. They’re beloved in their markets, but they don’t carry the top rated programs.

This blackout really affects folks in the smaller markets who are losing major network affiliates and who probably don’t have a lot of channels to choose from. Smooth move crushing the little guy, let me tell you.

Here’s how you get back at them

DISH still supports tuning of over-the-air channels in their guide. If you have a Hopper or Wally, all you need is this adapter. Of course, you’ll also need an antenna, but you can get one from Solid Signal.  Once you’re connected, there’s nothing more to pay and you’ll get your local channels even if the station owner decides to play dirty and pull them off DISH.

If history is any indication this could be a long blackout. DISH isn’t known for giving into other people’s lawyers. It’s best to get that antenna set up now and let them do whatever they do, in their own good time.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.