Dish Network vs. Fox Sports Midwest: Revisited

Dish Network vs. Fox Sports Midwest: Revisited

This post is a followup to the one on October 16th found here. Since that post has seen a decent amount of traction, I thought I would revisit the subject in order to make sure my point and view(s) were completely clear. This is a situation where the method(s) the story broke is what has angered myself, and other fans rather than the rationale behind it. St. Louis finally has exciting hockey once again, but unfortunately two companies are leaving a lot of fans out in the dark.

For starters, let’s get this part of the matter clear. I am completely for Fox Sports Midwest receiving more money this season. They are offering 74 games, as compared to the 51 previously offered last season. That makes 23 additional games plus more games which are being shown in HD. For offering more games, FSMW (Which I know is abbreviated FSM, but I went with FSMW to avoid any confusion), deserves additional money. Seems fair to me. FSMW worked out deals with  a few carriers, including Charter and AT&T to name a couple, but was unable to come to an agreement with Dish Network or Mediacom. Fans with DirecTV who were upset about missing Versus were suddenly counting their blessings that they were not missing a potential 35 St. Louis games due to blackout.

Which brings me to a point that has frustrated me: the number of blackouts. 35 games are on the schedule for blackout, the first occurring last Thursday, which leaves 34 on tap. 55 games are scheduled to be in HD. 25 games that were shown on KPLR last season have since been moved to either FSMW or Versus. FSMW increased their scheduled games from 51 to 74, an increase of 23. So where does the 35 blackout figure come from? And how exactly did they select the games that would fall under the said blackout? A glance at the schedule of games which might not be seen on Dish can be found in the original post (here) and includes some pretty big matchups that fans are being shut out on. Games such as two matchups against Detroit, the game against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Caps, and an April 7th game agaisnt Chicago which could prove important in the standings.

As I have stated, I am all for FSMW receiving the compensation they deserve for broadcasting more games this season, but it was the manner that the news broke which I feel was not only inconsiderate to the fan, but controversial and misleading on both sides.

Let me take you back to last Thursday. In the afternoon prior to the Blues/Coyotes matchup, word emerged that the game that night might be blacked out on Dish due to the fee/rate dispute. Fair enough, these things happen, but why did it take to just a few hours prior to the puck dropping for the story to break? 35 games is a huge chunk of the season for those of us (myself included) who subscribe to Dish. All of the sudden I can’t watch the game that night, nor will I be able to see games such as the one on the 23rd, and so on (I included a poll at the bottom of this entry asking how many games Dish users will miss this season).

Dan Caesar of the Post-Dispatch states here that a source said the “gap was wide” between the two sides. While I like to think there were last minute negotiations of some sort, the end results was the customer was pushed to the side in this situation. Many Dish customers had not even seen the story, but quickly found out roughly 10 minutes into the game when the feed of the Blues/Coyotes game turned into other FSMW programming, with a banner running stating customers should call and complain to Dish.

Is this how the customer is treated? Whether 10 minutes of the game was meant to be shown or not (techinical errors could have happened, especially when trying to change a feed last minute) it came across as a slap in the face to the loyal Blues fan who uses Dish Network. There was no warning, or “brace yourself this might happen” of any kind, it was simply yanked away the day of the first blackout. From a business perspective, I’m guessing they did not want to raise an alarm if they didn’t need to, and Dish did not want to lose potential business by announcing the blackouts might be in effect, just to later reach a deal. But, if the sides are truly as far apart as it has been reported, this situation could have and should have been handled better rather than the way it came up last Thursday.

Dish Network stated they want to keep rates lower and that was their reasoning for not accepting or agreeing with FSMW. Then riddle me this, how are other competing carriers able to not only agree to the FSMW deal, but do so with rates that fall under the same umbrellas as those at Dish? Things just don’t add up.

This is where the NHL fan is being treated unfairly, more so now than ever before. We all know about the DirecTV/Versus dispute and we all know that here we stand, three weeks in and there has been no visible progress made in righting the ship over there.

As Matt Reitz stated in his comment on the first installment, “even if the entire St Louis Blues fanbase threatened Dish Network that they were going to switch, it still wouldn’t compare with the people that have threatened DirecTV with the Versus debacle. We’re 3 weeks into the season and there’s no end in sight!”

A very true, valid and an alarming point. As things currently stand, the fan is placed last behind the dollar in a sport that should be treasuring the fans they do have.

Another comment posted by TJ on the first installment stated that a similar situation was taking place in the Dallas region. While I don’t have any of the details, it is a shame to see that this ordeal is impacting other fans in other areas too.

In the post I made last week, i created a poll to see on a very basic level who the public thought was at fault. While an extremely small sampled online poll is by no means accurate, it at least showed that people thought both sides are to blame. What really hurts FSMW’s case is the whole 10 minute broadcast last Thursday, that whether an accident or not, really damaged their image in this case. It came across as a tactic (or a tease if you will) and was one that has fans across Blues message boards quite upset.

Lastly, since this post is quickly turning from post into some sort of novel-esque form, the fan with Dish is being left high and dry. Calls to Dish state that they are trying to keep rates low and that we should blame FSMW while the word from FSMW is that they want more money for more games and that Dish is the one to blame. Two sides pointing the finger at the other, while Joe Blues fan (lame, but I couldn’t help it) is left without 35 games to watch. FSMW prides itself as being the home of the Blues and being an intricate part of the community, which I must say with their past coverage they have done a fine job. However, today, that image is slipping thanks to a situation that whether intentional or not, has placed the fan last. The situation has come across extremely poorly for both sides and the fan has been offered nothing (to my knowledge) in the form of compensation for the frustration and missed games this has caused. In the DirecTV/Versus situation, at least some fans have been offered free NHL Center Ice for their troubles.

If the customer is as valued by Dish and FSMW as they both claim, then an agreement must be reached before this stretches on and chunks of the season are missed. At the very least, something must be offered to the segment of fans that were smacked upside the head last Thursday when the game suddenly disappeared from their screens. As for what that might be, I’m not sure and it isn’t my problem to fix, but I do know that both sides need to do something to live up to their claims of valuing their customers.

The St. Louis market has been given new energy thanks to an exciting core of young, talented hockey players. Please, Dish and FSMW, don’t let this zap the energy and taint what could be an exciting season to watch. If this season is a disappointment, I want it to be due to the play on the ice, not the fact I can’t see the action on the ice.