The lawsuit between Dish Network, one of the leading cable/satellite providers in the country, and two subscribers came to a shocking conclusion when the US Court of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit unanimously ruled that the TV providers could not be held accountable when they lose channels due to a carriage fee dispute or other such technical reasons.
The court mentioned that the providers would not have to offer credit or refund to the subscribers, when the channels offered by them are blacked out or inaccessible to the subscribers for a period of time. Two Dish subscribers filed a class action lawsuit against Dish Network, when the satellite/cable provider lost more than a few Turner-owned channels and Fox News.
The Dish subscribers argued that Dish Network has to pay them a refund or credit for the time they could not access the channels, as the provider guaranteed and promised to offer these channels in the programming package they subscribed for. One of the District Court judges actually agreed to the claim and addressed the issue by saying that the contract between the customer and Dish Network can be considered “illusory”, if the provider decided to keep the entire subscriber free even though a few channels were missing from the subscribed package.
Dish Network pleaded for an appeal against this ruling to the Eighth Circuit. The Eight Circuit ruled that the contract between the customer and Dish Network could not be considered as “illusory” because the satellite provider has offered the channels during most time of the agreement and they intended to provide the channels even during the dispute in licensing. Furthermore, the appeal panel also pointed out that Dish contract specifically stresses that they could change the channel lineup of any package whenever they want.
The National Law Review added that the ruling from Eighth Circuit is a blessing for the pay TV providers, as their carriage negotiations would have been at hamstrung, if they were liable to pay customers refund or credit during channel blackouts. In such a scenario, programmers will have an immense advantage over the pay TV providers.