Media General and the Dish Network failed to negotiate a new contract by midnight Monday, so WSAV will not be carried by the satellite provider until an agreement can be reached, according to a news release Tuesday from the Savannah-based station. By law, the Dish Network cannot carry WSAV on its for-profit satellite system until the companies agree to a contract, the release said.
“WSAV has been an integral part of the Savannah (and Hilton Head) community for 56 years and that is our number one priority,” said station general manager Deb Thompson. “We understand that having a blank screen instead of their favorite programming is frustrating for DISH customers and it’s frustrating for us as well.” "Media General is doing everything it can to reach a fair resolution with DISH and have our programming restored to the Dish satellite system," the release sates.
Media General owns affiliates in 18 metropolitan areas, including Charleston, Greenville-Spartanburg and Myrtle Beach-Florence. The Savannah station airs on Channel 3.
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If a deal is not reached, Lowcountry Dish Network customers will miss out on popular NBC shows like "The Voice," "Sunday Night Football" and "Wheel of Fortune," as well as WSAV's evening newscasts at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.
On Sept. 24, a Dish Network statement said Media General rejected a short-term deal that would have ended the dispute. The deal would have granted Dish Network transmission rights until Media General closes its merger deal with Young Broadcasting, according to a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.
So far, it's unclear how many Dish customers would be affected. On Sept. 25, Thompson said the network does not give out viewer numbers. Danielle Johnson, a Dish Network spokeswoman, said the company does not release the locations of subscribers, other than it has 14 million in the U.S.
Most viewers can still receive the station's signal for free by using a basic over-the-air antenna.
Savannah was the 92nd-largest TV market in the U.S. in 2012, according to Nielsen ratings. Nearly 350,000 households, including those in Beaufort and Jasper counties, make up the market.