If you're a sports fan, this is the time of year for you.
Both professional and college football are in full swing. The NHL will begin its season this week. The NBA season isn't much further off. Major League Baseball is set to host its annual postseason pennant race.
In a few weeks, all four major North American sports will be on at the same time. For sports fans, it doesn't get much better.
Unless, of course, you have Dish Network.
The 14-plus million customers of the satellite provider won't be able to see many of their local teams for the foreseeable future, as Fox pulled 19 of its regional sports channels, leaving millions of fans in the dark.
The problem? Dish says that Fox is demanding a 50 percent increase in rates, while Fox says Dish is unfairly compensating them for their usage of FSN networks.
Caught in the middle of the debate are residents in the 19 areas served by those FSN channels. Included in the 19 is Fox Sports Detroit, which serves the entire state of Michigan and parts of Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin. It broadcasts the majority of Detroit Pistons, Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers regular season games.
That's disastrous news for Red Wings and Pistons fans. On Oct. 8, the Red Wings will debut home-grown NHL superstar Mike Modano this season as part of a quest for one last run at the Stanley Cup for the team's many veterans. The Pistons and newly-acquired Tracy McGrady will open their season on Oct. 27, a date that the lockout could easily surpass.
Fortunately for fans of the NFL and MLB, they won't have to bear the brunt of the collision. Major League Baseball's playoffs are carried by local Fox affiliates, which aren't affected (at least yet; more on that later), and TBS. For Michiganians, the Tigers have long been eliminated so interest wouldn't be that high anyways, save for the diehard fans of baseball. The NFL has contracts with ESPN, CBS, Fox, NBC and the NFL Network to carry regular season games.
That won't be much consolation to NHL and NBA fans, especially if the lockout goes past Nov. 1. That's when Dish and Fox's contract for local affiliates runs out. If Nov 1. comes and there is still no contract, popular shows like Glee, House and American Idol would be unavailable to DISH subscribers. That would include NFL broadcasts on Fox as well, meaning the majority of Detroit Lions games would go out the window.
Come on Fox, the Lions have enough issues getting on TV as it is.
As a customer of Dish myself, this is not what I wanted to hear. One of the main reasons I got satellite television was so I could watch my local sports teams whenever I wanted. Without Fox Sports Detroit, that is now not possible.
But hey, on the plus side Dish is giving me a whole 20 additional sports channels free of charge, most of which I already have as a subscriber to the third largest program package.
Dish will stand to lose a lot of customers if they let this drag on well into October. Rival DirecTV still carries FSN networks, and cable providers such as Comcast and Charter are also in good standing with Fox. If Dish lets this thing get out of hand, don't be surprised if DirecTV reports a sudden surge of new customers.
If I miss too many Red Wings games, I'll be part of that surge.
The most enraging part of the whole situation is that Dish and Fox both knew the contract was about to expire, yet neither side did much to move negotiations along. What's worse, they gave people little warning that this was coming, and most of us had to find out the hard way. Now, as we move toward the Nov. 1 deadline for local affiliates, neither side seems to be that concerned about getting a deal done.
It's certainly reasonable that Dish shouldn't have to pass outlandish fees onto its customers, but it's also reasonable for Fox to be compensated fairly for its product. What's unreasonable is that they waited this long to air their grievances, holding sports fans in 19 regions of the country hostage in the process.
Frankly, I don't care what your issue with each other is, Fox and Dish. I just want my teams back.