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Published on November 8th, 2018 | by Brad Gibson


As HBO blackout on Sling TV rolls on, Dish accuses AT&T of not playing fair

With the blackout of HBO on Sling TV now entering its eighth day, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen on Wednesday accused AT&T of asking Dish to pay for a guaranteed number of HBO subscribers while also giving HBO away for free to AT&T wireless subscribers, calling the move “malpractice”.

The contract dispute between HBO – owned by AT&T – and Dish Network – owners of the Dish satellite service and the streaming service Sling TV – has turned into a blame game with customers stuck in the middle.

Ergen accused AT&T of using HBO as “a weapon” for the benefit of DirecTV, both of which are owned by the telecommunications giant. “There’s no company that would sign up for a deal like that,” Ergen said.

“This is purely an anticompetitive play that we tried to warn about,” Ergen commented. “We can’t sign a deal where we would actually pay for their customers, and that’s what it would be.”

“AT&T knows full well that for many of our customers, the only place they can go is to DirecTV, and they own HBO and they own DirecTV, so they’re willing to make that trade-off,” he said.

HBO countered Ergen’s comments calling them “silly” in a lengthy statement issued to the press.

“It’s important to clarify that it was Dish who dropped the HBO and Cinemax signals at midnight on Oct. 31, not the other way around,” the statement said. “In fact, we offered to extend our current contract while we continued negotiating. An idea that Dish initially agreed to and then oddly changed their mind about at the eleventh hour.”

The sticking point in the negotiations is that HBO is insisting that Dish pay for a minimum number of customers. Dish general counsel Timothy Messner said during a Dish earnings conference call, “So, why would a customer pay Dish when they can get it from DirecTV free for life, right?”

Ergen and others at Dish also said that the existence of HBO Now, a stand-alone streaming service, also hurts the chances that Dish would easily sell HBO to its customers, but HBO said Wednesday it offered Dish a competitive deal.

“The terms of our proposal were advantageous to Dish compared to their current deal,” read the HBO statement. “We’re actually perplexed by their unwillingness to take this proposal as an opportunity rather than perpetuating a conflict which only hurts consumers. The notion that AT&T had anything to do with our inability to reach a reasonable deal with Dish is simply not true. It seems to be a silly but transparent attempt on Dish’s behalf to muddy the waters for reasons only they can explain.”

The official line to customers from Sling TV is that HBO and Cinemax have made unreasonable demands they refuse to impose on customers. “(They want to) force you to pay for programming you don’t receive, especially if it’s available on other platforms like HBO Now,” the online statement reads.

Sling TV customers subscribing to HBO receive a prorated credit on their next bill based on the number of days remaining in their current billing cycle. If HBO does come back, subscribers will be charged a prorated amount for the remainder of their billing cycle.

Sling TV customers with previously recorded HBO programming through its Cloud DVR still have full access to pre-recorded shows.



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About the Author

Brad is co-founder and editor-in-chief of He has been a technology reporter since the late 1980s having previously worked for MacUser, MacFormat, and iCreate magazines, as well as,,,, and He hosted and produced the MacFormat This Week podcast for three years. He was also a reporter, editor, and producer for the AOL, the BBC, Associated Press, and United Press International.

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