The trade dispute that cut HBO off the show for millions of Americans on Nov. 1 comes into its second week – with no sign of respite.
Up to 2.5 million customers have lost access to HBO's hit shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "Westworld" via Dish Network, the second largest satellite TV provider in the world. America.
The outage is affecting an additional 10.2 million Dish subscribers who have not joined the HBO channel but could become potential customers of the premium entertainment channel.
This is the first time that HBO "darkens", to use the jargon of television executives. The viewers are caught in the middle, which can have consequences for both sides: a prolonged failure could lead to considerable customer losses.
The confrontation between Dish and HBO stems from a seemingly mundane contract negotiation about whether Dish has to pay HBO a guaranteed number of customers, whether these subscribers materialize or not.
But this is also part of a historic effort by the Department of Justice to analyze the increasingly concentrated media sector and to suspend the merger that gave HBO control of one of the largest telecommunication companies of the country: AT & T.
The stalemate brings enormous challenges that reflect the deplorable conditions of the traditional television sector. What began as a net of consumers for digital TV alternatives, such as Netflix and Hulu, has turned into a torrent, with analysts such as eMarketer predicting that 33 million Americans will have dropped their television subscriptions paying by the end of the year. While Dish and AT & T are reporting even more pronounced declines in the number of their traditional TV subscribers in recent months, pressure to build customer loyalty is intense, analysts say.
"The rate of decline in the base segment of satellite TV has been greatly accelerated," Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson, wrote in a research note this week. "They said the priority was to keep their best customers."
Canal breakdowns are generally considered a chicken game in the television industry, participants on each side hoping that the other will flash first. Dish's president, Charlie Ergen, is widely recognized as a combative adversary in the negotiations, which has often let channels sink into the dark rather than accepting agreements he does not like. According to Moffett, Dish has already fallen into the dark with Univision, Sinclair, Fox, Viacom and AMC. Ergen has stated in the past that "real" negotiations did not start until there was a blackout.
Testifying how much the quarrel has become acrimonious, Dish has accused AT & T of arming HBO in an attempt to seduce its customers towards DirecTV, its main rival, AT & T. AT & T denies any interference in HBO's contract negotiations. . In addition, Dish reportedly secretly "collaborated" with the Justice Department to tarnish the name of the telecommunications giant, following the failure of the government's attempt to block Time Warner's takeover by AT & T, which was renamed WarnerMedia.
"It's a purely anti-competitive game we've been trying to warn about," Ergen said in a conference call with investors on Wednesday. "AT & T knows that for many of our customers, the only place they can go is DirecTV. They also own HBO and DIRECTV, "added Ergen. "So, they are ready to make that compromise."
While some Dish customers may be able to sign up for HBO's stand-alone digital app, they now live in rural areas without high-speed Internet access, effectively eliminating this option, Ergen said.
The Justice Ministry declined to comment on AT & T's accusations of collaboration. But one person familiar with the agency's thinking called the idea "false" and "laughable", expressing under cover of anonymity given the government's pending appeal in the case that allowed AT & T to buy Time Warner.
Keith Cocozza, a spokesperson for WarnerMedia, HBO's parent, said Dish was blamed for the failure by refusing to treat.
"HBO has proposed to extend the negotiations during the negotiation of an agreement. The dish is gone, "said Cocozza. "HBO continues to transmit its signal to Dish and [is] willing to negotiate. "