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Nexstar, DISH have deal

January 05, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

DISH Network said Wednesday it has an agreement to put NBC25 on its satellite TV system sometime this year.

DISH Network released a one-sentence statement acknowledging the deal after a Herald-Mail story reported that a DISH spokesman said there was no agreement yet.

On Tuesday, DISH spokesman Mark Cicero said, "We are exploring the possibility of adding WHAG (NBC25) in the future ... but have no more comments to make at this time," in a message he left on a reporter's answering machine.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Cicero denied saying there was no agreement. He said that when a reporter asked him Tuesday, his response was that he could neither confirm nor deny that there's a deal.

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The same story quoted NBC25's Hugh J. Breslin III and Duane Lammers, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. - NBC25's parent company - as saying DISH already has an agreement to carry NBC25.

"We've had this contract for a couple of years," Lammers said Wednesday.

Reached Wednesday, Breslin - NBC25's vice president, general manager and general sales manager - referred questions to Lammers.

Asked when DISH and Nexstar reached an agreement to carry NBC25, Hagerstown's NBC affiliate, Cicero said that's a business detail DISH wouldn't reveal.

He said DISH doesn't know yet when NBC25 will be on the satellite TV system.

The deciding factor, Lammers said, is when EchoStar Communications Corp., which operates DISH Network, can launch its 10th satellite, known as EchoStar X.

The satellite launch scheduled for September 2005 was delayed.

"From an engineering standpoint, they just couldn't get it done," Lammers said.

In a letter posted on NBC25's Web site, Breslin assures viewers there is an agreement.

"In fact, we have been authorized by DISH to complete any engineering necessary for them to receive our signal for the purpose of distributing it to their subscribers," the letter says. "A launch is expected sometime in the first quarter of 2006, hopefully by early February."

NBC25's availability on satellite TV became an issue in November during a negotiation conflict between Nexstar and Antietam Cable Television.

With Antietam's agreement to carry NBC25 on its cable package weeks from expiring, Nexstar and Antietam publicly attacked each other through advertisements. NBC25 encouraged viewers to switch to DISH Network.

On Dec. 28, Nexstar and Antietam announced a tentative deal allowing NBC25 to remain part of the cable package in 2006.

Antietam Cable Television, which serves Washington County, is owned by Schurz Communications Inc., the parent company of The Herald-Mail.

Breslin's letter says NBC25 will help viewers get antennas if they switched to DISH Network expecting it would have NBC25 at the beginning of 2006.

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