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Dish and Sinclair avert blackout; continue negotiations

Dish Network and Sinclair Broadcast Group agreed to a “short-term contract extension,” giving the parties more time to come to terms over a carriage deal affecting 5 million Dish subscribers.

The original contract between Dish and Sinclair was set to expire midnight Saturday.

For now, 153 stations in 79 markets will stay on the Dish lineup, averting what Dish said would be “largest local channel blackout in the history of retransmission consent.”

“We appreciate that we have mutually created time to try to find the right path to serve consumers,” Warren Schlichting, Dish senior vice president of programming said in a statement issued early Sunday morning.

The drama over negotiations has been intense with Dish filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against Sinclair hours before the original contract deal was set to expire. Dish is asking the FCC to force Sinclair to keep the stations on the air while negotiations continue.

The dispute comes just as the FCC begins a proceeding to review the “totality of circumstances test” for what constitutes “good faith” negotiations in retransmission consent. Related to that notice of proposed rule making FCC chairman Tom Wheeler also circulated last Thursday, tan order to eliminate exclusivity rules, which could make it harder for broadcasters to negotiate retransmission consent.