Dish viewers looking to spend their Halloween with a bowl of candy and an HBO movie were left disappointed Wednesday as the premium cable network went dark for the first time in its 40-plus-year history. Due to an ongoing dispute with Dish Network, viewers trying to access HBO via their Dish sets or through Sling TV (which is owned by Dish) will now see nothing but a black screen. According to The Wrap, HBO went dark at around 9 p.m. Wednesday night, and unless AT&T, HBO’s parent company, and Dish strike a deal, it’s possible that service will remain down for the foreseeable future.
Shortly after HBO’s signal blacked out, HBO released a statement about the sudden change in service. The network placed the blame primarily on Dish, saying:
During our forty plus years of operation, HBO has always been able to reach agreement with our valued distributors and our services have never been taken down or made unavailable to subscribers due to an inability to conclude a deal. Unfortunately, DISH is making it extremely difficult, responding to our good faith attempts with unreasonable terms. Past behavior shows that removing services from their customers is becoming all too common a negotiating tactic for them. We hope the situation with DISH changes soon but, in the meantime, our valued customers should take advantage of the other ways to access an HBO subscription so they can continue to enjoy our acclaimed programming.
To help customers “take advantage of the other ways to access an HBO subscription,” the network has created a website (keepmyhbo.com/dish, because subtlety is not HBO’s strong suit) specifically addressing the issue. From there, you can sign up for an HBO Now subscription, which requires no cable package, or add HBO to an existing Amazon Prime, Playstation Vue, or DirecTV Now account. The site also gives users options for accessing a Cinemax account, which was also affected by the Dish blackout.
Despite facing a formidable opponent, Dish isn’t rolling over quite yet. Andy LeCuyer, Dish senior vice president of programming, released a statement of his own that directly targeted HBO’s parent company:
Plain and simple, the merger created for AT&T immense power over consumers. It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors. This may be the first of many HBO blackouts for consumers across the country. AT&T no longer has incentive to come to an agreement on behalf of consumer choice; instead, it’s been given the power to grab more money or steal away customers.
Not to be outdone, Dish updated its “Promise” site on Wednesday. The landing page now reads, “Attention Dish customers: HBO/Cinemax removed your access to view their channels. Log in below to see more information regarding our negotiations.” Dish’s various Twitter accounts have also been responding to individual views’ concerns and assuring customers that they are working to get HBO’s service back, while also placing the blame squarely on HBO’s shoulders. “HBO is making unreasonable demands and Dish is fighting to keep costs down,” the Dish Latino account told one customer.
Until this gets worked out, Dish’s 2.5 million HBO subscribers are SOL. Let’s just hope that they reach a deal before Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres in the spring.
Stream Game of Thrones on HBO