You're probably not watching much Carole Lombard lately (such as in "To Be Or Not To Be," above) if you're a subscriber to Dish network -- and here's why.
The satellite provider took Turner Classic Movies and seven other Turner channels off its system Oct. 21. (TBS and TNT are under separate contracts and remain on.) While battles between distributors and providers are common in the industry (an example here in Los Angeles was Time Warner SportsNet LA, which carried Dodgers games this past season but was invisible in about two-thirds of the area), this dispute is particularly nasty.
How virulent is it? The company's chairman, Charlie Ergen, told media the blackout has "almost been a non-event at this point," adding Turner "is one of the easy ones to take down. ... When we take something down we’re prepared to leave it down forever.”
Not very reassuring to TCM fans deprived by Dish.
Ergen's company tried to substitute similar channels for lost Turner product. Did it succeed? In TCM's case, a resounding no. At first, it replaced TCM with FXM (the rebranded former Fox Movie Channel)...and that went over like the proverbial lead balloon. Will McKinley, at his blog "Cinematically Insane," called it "like the gift of a pox covered blanket" (https://willmckinley.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/tcm-temporarily-replaced-by-fxm-on-dish/).
Had this been the Fox Movie Channel of five years ago, which ran classic-era 20th Century-Fox output commercial-free 24/7 with TCM-style wraparounds for its prime-time product, Dish might have been able to pass it off as a classic movie outlet (although its library was limited and you would have been subjected to James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich's "No Highway In The Sky" ad nauseun). However in 2012, Fox altered the channel into FXM, whose daytime output mirrored the old FMC format but whose nighttime programming is far more recent fare (think Adam Sandler), edited for content and with commercials.
There was much public outcry about this, so Dish quickly pulled FXM and replaced it with the MGM HD channel, which also features commercials. Lest you think this means you'll see Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy, sorry to disappoint. A glance at its schedule for the next few days reveals its output apparently goes no further back than the early '60s ("Lilies Of The Field," "The Fortune Cookie," "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum"). Most of what it airs are from the '70s and '80s. A better substitute -- but still a mere substitute.
Slightly more than 14 million homes have been deprived of TCM and the other blacked-out Turner channels, reducing their overall coverage by roughly one-seventh. And as the debate grows more bitter, the chances increase that TCM may never return to Dish -- and many of those affected don't have the leeway to switch to satellite rival DirecTV or to a cable service. (As for me, I've never subscribed to Dish; my only experience with satellite came from 2010 to 2012, when I watched DirecTV because the cable distributor in Lynchburg, Va., didn't carry Washington Nationals games. When I moved to LA in July, I selected Time Warner Cable over DirecTV specifically to watch the Dodgers.)
McKinley writes more about it at https://willmckinley.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/dish-threatens-to-blackout-tcm-turner-networks-forever/. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for some sort of happy ending.