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Published on February 13th, 2019 | by Brad Gibson

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HBO returning to Sling TV anytime soon? Don’t get your hopes up

Four months since HBO went dark on Sling TV, the streaming systems executives said Wednesday there has been “no meaningful movement” in talks to return the popular entertainment channel to the service, calling the demands they pay for a minimum number of customers as “guns at our head.”

During a fourth-quarter earnings conference call, Dish Network Corporation – the owners of Sling TV – confirmed the service grew its customer base by 52,000 in the quarter for a total of 2.42 million, despite the loss of HBO and Cinemax since October 31 of last year.

Company executives admitted the major factors hurting subscriber numbers were the loss of HBO as well as programming from Univision being pulled on its Dish satellite network as well as Sling TV last June.

The conference call began with the news of no progress in talks. The company gave no further indications if they remain optimistic a compromise can be found, gave no indications there had been face-to-face talks, and gave no evidence if there had been even minor movement on the positions of either company. 

The contract dispute between HBO – owned by AT&T – and Dish Network has turned into a blame game with customers stuck in the middle. HBO wants Dish to pay for a minimum number of customers. Dish calls that essentially a deal where it would actually pay for HBO’s customers.

Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen on Wednesday accused AT&T of using HBO as “a weapon” for the benefit of DirecTV, both of which are owned by the telecommunications giant. “We’re not real good at guns at our head,” he said.

DISH claims that when AT&T acquired HBO/Cinemax parent company Time Warner last year after winning an antitrust suit filed by the Department of Justice, there were no guidelines set in place to ensure that AT&T would treat subscribers to its channels fairly.

“I think HBO is a unique situation because of the AT&T acquisition of Time Warner,” he said . “AT&T is not being collaborative is working with distributors like us. I think they are clearly going into competition with distributors…AT&T sells [HBO] for free in a bundle.”

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. Despite that, HBO said last November it offered Dish a competitive deal.

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,” an online statement reads.

As for HBO, the company has stood by its claims that it has offered Dish a fair deal moving forward.

“It was Dish who dropped the HBO and Cinemax signals at midnight on Oct. 31, not the other way around,” the company said last November. “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 Sling TV app is available for download from the Apple TV App Store. The service has been available on Apple TV since June of 2016 and currently starts at $25.00 a month with a seven-day trial.

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About the Author

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



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