CBS Blacks Out Millions on DISH, Threatens Thanksgiving

Aug 23, 2018

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York, L.A., Philly, San Fran and other Major Markets Left in the Dark
CBS Leverages Thanksgiving Day Parade, Holiday Specials and NFL Football

Washington, D.C.– The CBS Corporation today pulled the plug on millions of American families, unilaterally blacking out 28 local channels in 18 markets across 26 states for DISH subscribers.  The American Television Alliance, a voice for the TV viewer, condemned CBS’s massive consumer blackout and demanded the broadcaster restore its signal to affected households.  ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy commented on CBS’s outrageous actions:

“Blacking out millions of American families just ahead of Thanksgiving is a new low.  This is a naked attempt by CBS to shake down families for more of their hard-earned money, as they sit down to enjoy turkey and watch football.  It is shameful and wrong.

CBS wears its billion-dollar retrans haul like a badge of honor, so it’s no surprise its executives in New York are willing to block the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Frosty the Snowman, and the annual Dallas Cowboys Turkey Day game to create leverage in an obvious cash-grab.

Cable and satellite TV subscribers already pay too much for programming available for free, over the air.  CBS’s appalling actions highlight ATVA’s longstanding call for Congress and the FCC to protect consumers from broadcaster blackouts and higher fees by reforming outdated and broken video laws.”

Contrary to what CBS would like the public to believe, cable and satellite providers cannot “drop” local stations.  CBS is solely responsible for this blackout, and CBS alone has the power to restore its signal and end this blackout before Thanksgiving.  CBS, as the owner of its content, can restore its programming for DISH customers at any time, even while negations are taking place.

Broadcasters have a long history of using TV blackouts as weapons to extract higher fees from consumers.  CBS is a repeat offender; the broadcaster orchestrated a month-long blackout of 3 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in 2013.

TV Blackout Crisis: Blackouts Break Records As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 800 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  With 212 blackouts already this year, 2017 is the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 212 blackouts in 2017 (and counting)
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010

When blackouts finally end, consumers get their programming back, but at a higher cost:

  • SNL Kagan also projects that over time 60% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks rather than pay for local programming.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of programming costs
  • Retrans fees have grown an astonishing 22,400% [no, that’s not a typo] since 2005 and even more troubling, they have seen 40% annual increases over the last 3 years.


The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.