Dish Network customers have lost access to HBO channels and Cinemax — months after AT&T gained control of HBO’s parent company — in the television industry’s latest escalation of hardball negotiations over carriage fees.
The dispute marks the first-ever blackout of HBO channels. HBO, which includes such programs as “Game of Thrones” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” has long maintained amicable relations with its distribution partners because it relies on them to help market its channels, including Cinemax.
The channels were pulled early Thursday when the carriage contract expired.
The blackout affects about 2.5 million of Dish’s 13 million customers, according to a person close to the situation who was not authorized to publicly discuss internal numbers.
Dish Network, based in Englewood, Colo., blamed the blackout on AT&T’s takeover of HBO and other Time Warner properties, which was completed in June.
HBO, meanwhile, accused Dish of offering unreasonable proposals, saying that has become a “negotiating tactic” for the satellite TV provider.
AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner properties “has allowed the giant conglomerate to relentlessly exert power and influence over competing pay TV providers,” Dish said in a statement.
That $85 billion merger transformed the Dallas-based phone company into one of the world’s largest entertainment firms, with huge clout in the marketplace. AT&T also owns DirecTV, which is Dish’s largest competitor.