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Dish Network brings back Watertown stations after reaching deal

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Dish Network customers had Watertown television stations back on the air about 7 p.m. Friday, as the satellite television provider agreed to a contract with the parent company of WWNY-7 News and WNYF-Fox 28.

United Communications Corp., Kenosha, Wis., agreed to the three-year contract after a 15-day blackout in which customers lost the two stations, said Cathy M. Pircsuk, vice president and general manager of the stations. Lawyers from the two parties, including CBS and Fox, revised language in the contract to make the deal about 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Ms. Pircsuk said she is relieved the blackout is over so Dish customers can watch local news.

“People told us they wanted their local news, weather and sports, and they depended on the stations,” Ms. Pircsuk said. “Dish has had customers off for months at a time on their contract disputes, and this was short compared to a lot of other stations. But it doesn’t matter if it’s an hour, two weeks or six months — you never want to lose service.”

United and Dish agreed to the financial terms of the contract in August. But Dish reworded language included in the previous contract to grant it more retransmission rights, Ms. Pircsuk said. Under that revised contract, Dish would be granted authority to modify the way programming by CBS and Fox is transmitted after receiving over-the-air signals. Shifting the times at which programs will air, for example, and discontinuing commercial time would be allowed.

But Ms. Pircsuk did not know how language in the contract was revised to reach the agreement Friday.

“It’s written into the agreement that it’s not to be discussed,” she said.

Collectively, the two Watertown stations provide programming to about 10,000 households across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, Ms. Pircsuk said.

“A lot of our Dish customers are in rural areas where cable isn’t an option, because some of the cable doesn’t run into back country roads,” she said.

Kenneth L. Dowdell, vice president of United Communications, said both parties made concessions to reach the deal. But he declined to comment about the revised contract.

“All I can say is that both parties were satisfied, but I don’t know that either party was jumping for joy,” Mr. Dowdell said. “We regret that customers had to lose service, but I think both parties saw a chance to get services restored. These blackouts don’t serve anyone well, especially the viewers. Unfortunately, sometimes in the business it happens.”

In a company release, Dish Network offered no particulars about how the deal was reached.

“Dish is pleased that our work on behalf of customers has resulted in an agreement for the restoration of access to United’s CBS and Fox stations,” said Sruta Vootukuru, Dish director of programming. “We thank our customers for their patience while we negotiated a deal that allows us to provide channels at the best value.”

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