Dish Drops Lifetime Movie Network, Adds Oxygen

The Lifetime Movie Network will no longer be carried by Dish Network--no matter how the rancorous dispute between their parent companies is resolved. Also, Oxygen Network has joined the Dish lineup, and has become the latest flashpoint in the dispute.

A Dish spokesperson said returning LMN to Dish is off the table--an irreversible result of the impasse between Lifetime Entertainment Services and EchoStar Communications. The move is expected to cost the ad-supported LMN distribution at least 6 million of its 44 million homes.

"We took action and removed Lifetime Movie Network," the spokesperson said.

LMN has been replaced by the female-oriented Oxygen Network on the Dish programming tier where it was offered. In addition--in another move aimed at ratcheting up pressure on Lifetime--Oxygen is now being offered to all 12 million Dish subscribers over the next month in place of the flagship Lifetime Television network.

Satellite operator Dish reached an agreement to carry Oxygen, the network founded by Geraldine Laybourne, after an all-night negotiating session that ended at 4:45 A.M. Monday morning. That came after Dish and Lifetime halted their negotiations on Friday.



Both Dish and Oxygen said they had been negotiating since last summer, although the Lifetime dispute was clearly the impetus for their agreement.

An Oxygen spokesperson said the timing was "fortuitous," but declined to say whether Oxygen was in any way being used by Dish to squeeze Lifetime.

Lifetime and EchoStar have been wrangling over how much Dish would pay to carry both Lifetime Television and LMN. Dish blacked out the two networks on Jan. 1.

Since then, Lifetime has mounted a campaign--with a slew of women's groups on board--charging Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen with being insensitive to critical female issues.

Picking up Oxygen could help insulate Dish from those accusations, although a Lifetime spokesperson strongly denied that. "Nothing can replace Lifetime Television and Lifetime Movie Network," the spokesperson said. "We are the No. 1 and 2 women's networks. We are simply irreplaceable."

The Lifetime campaign may have been effective at generating complaints to Dish. Callers to a Dish toll-free number were told to press "one" for information on Lifetime and "two" for all other calls. The Dish spokesperson declined to say how many customers have dropped Dish because of the dispute.

In order to rebut Lifetime's charges that by blacking out the two networks it was preventing women from receiving important health and welfare information, Dish had promised to air public service announcements--if women's groups provided them with the info. The information has arrived, and Dish will begin airing PSAs this week on issues such as breast cancer and domestic violence during its ad and promo time. The PSAs will appear on channels with a high female viewership such as the Food Network, Women's Entertainment, and Fine Living.

Over the next month--or until an agreement is reached--Oxygen has closed the distribution gap with Lifetime Television significantly. Oxygen is in 65 million homes, with Lifetime in an estimated 76 million.

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