EchoStar says it may drop CNN in dispute

/ Source: The Associated Press

EchoStar Communications warned Monday it could drop programming from its DISH satellite network because of a contract dispute, this time over CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and Headline News.

The dispute comes just over a month after EchoStar and Viacom Inc. settled a similar conflict.

EchoStar, with 9 million subscribers nationwide, said its contract with Turner Broadcasting System expired Dec. 31. The companies agreed to an extension that has kept Turner programming on the DISH network, but EchoStar spokesman Steve Caulk on Monday refused to say when that extension expires.

"If and when the (extension) agreement expires, we would then have to drop the channels in question," Caulk said. He said Turner was seeking "unreasonable rate increases."

A spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Turner said negotiations are under way and the company hopes an agreement can be reached. Turner Broadcasting is part of Time Warner Inc.

On March 9, Englewood, Colo.-based EchoStar pulled the plug on Viacom programming in a dispute over fees, leaving DISH viewers nationwide without MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon and other Viacom channels.

About 2 million DISH subscribers also lost programming from CBS, which is owned by Viacom.

The two sides quickly reached a deal, restoring Viacom programming to DISH early on March 11.