Dish Network Says To Lifetime: Let The People Decide!

Dish has offered to carry the Lifetime Television channel on an "a la carte" basis, meaning it would make the channel available to any subscriber who requests it. Dish says it will not charge customers for the channel, and pay Lifetime what it recently requested for each customer who opts for the channel. (Dish declined to name that rate.)

The move could save Dish millions, because it would only pay Lifetime for the sub-set of customers who request the Lifetime channel, not for all 12 million of its customers.

Dish made the offer in a letter to Lifetime yesterday as the two sides remained at a standstill over how much Dish would pay Lifetime to carry the channel. Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network have been blacked out on Dish since Jan. 1. Dish says it has permanently replaced LMN, and expects to have a replacement for Lifetime by Feb. 1. Dish would not say which networks are being considered.

Lifetime, which has charged Dish with depriving women of important and educational programming on the female-targeted networks, has mounted a "ditch Dish" campaign with women's groups. Lifetime said that it stands by its position that Lifetime and LMN should be offered to all Dish subscribers. "Dish has already announced they are increasing their rates by $2 and $3 per month on Feb. 1," Lifetime said. "Why should women pay more for their favorite programs?"

The "a la carte" offer by Dish is a new tactic in its negotiations, which have included signing a deal with Lifetime competitor Oxygen and dropping LMN permanently. It also brings one of the hottest issues in the cable industry squarely into the dispute. So-called "a la carte" cable is a favorite of consumer groups and FCC members who believe it will allow people to save money by only having to pay for the channels they want. The cable industry is opposed--ostensibly because they say it will lead to higher prices--but perhaps more so because it may drastically slash distribution of niche channels, which companies offer in package or bundled deals with their popular offerings.

Those in favor of "a la carte" also argue that it would allow parents to avoid channels with content unsuitable for children. Cable companies have moved swiftly to offer family-tier packages in a bid to take that issue off the table. Dish did the same last week.

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