Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

HBO and Cinemax, two premium cable channels that are owned by AT&T, have gone dark for more than 10 million Dish Pay TV subscribers and 2.5 million Sling TV subscribers, a digital TV package owned by Dish.

Why it matters: It's the first time HBO, which is considered a must-have premium channel for many consumers, has been blocked to customers over a distribution deal disagreement.

The details: HBO says Dish cut the signal. Dish says HBO cut the signal. In reality, Dish physically cut the signal after it felt HBO was "making untenable demands" — asking for more money — from Dish to distribute its programming.

  • HBO says Dish has been extremely difficult to negotiate with after "responding to our good faith attempts with unreasonable terms."
  • But Dish argues that AT&T, which owns satellite provider DIRECTV, has a vested interest in stealing Dish's Pay TV subscribers and is choosing to not come to an agreement for that reason. Dish claims this will allow AT&T to lure Dish's subscribers to DIRECTV, where they'll access HBO.
  • HBO disputes this, saying they need the widest distribution possible to survive. But Dish says that the fact that HBO's first-ever blackout is occurring while it's under the ownership of AT&T is telling.

Between the lines: Dish has a record of using these types of negotiating tactics with TV networks.

  • Dish boss Charlie Ergen has a reputation for being a tough negotiator when it comes to these types of agreements. He has in the past said that "real negotiating starts when we go dark."
  • For example, Univision is currently pressing regulators to look into whether Dish has misled customers in marketing its services, despite the fact that Univision has been blacked out on Dish's network for months.

The bigger picture: Dish blames the approval of AT&T's $85 billion takeover of HBO's parent company Time Warner for the move.

  • It claims that no guidelines were put in place by the Justice Department to ensure that AT&T wouldn't leverage its exclusive ownership of HBO to demand more money from AT&T operators.
  • But regulators essentially signaled that no guidelines are necessary in approving the merger because HBO has no market incentive to reduce distribution.
  • The possibility of blackouts, however, was a massive issue during the months-long trial between AT&T/Time Warner and the Justice Department.
“This behavior, unfortunately, is consistent with what the Department of Justice predicted would result from the merger. We are hopeful the Court of Appeals will correct the errors of the District Court.”
— A DOJ spokesperson to Axios

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:45 p.m. ET: 19,282,972 — Total deaths: 718,851 — Total recoveries — 11,671,491Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:45 p.m. ET: 4,937,441 — Total deaths: 161,248 — Total recoveries: 1,623,870 — Total tests: 60,415,558Map.
  3. Politics: Trump says he's prepared to sign executive orders on coronavirus aid.
  4. Education: Cuomo says all New York schools can reopen for in-person learning.
  5. Public health: Surgeon general urges flu shots to prevent "double whammy" with coronavirus — Massachusetts pauses reopening after uptick in coronavirus cases.
  6. World: Africa records over 1 million coronavirus cases — Gates Foundation puts $150 million behind coronavirus vaccine production.

Warren and Clinton to speak on same night of Democratic convention

(Photos: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton both are slated to speak on the Wednesday of the Democratic convention — Aug. 19 — four sources familiar with the planning told Axios.

Why it matters: That's the same night Joe Biden's running mate (to be revealed next week) will address the nation. Clinton and Warren represent two of the most influential wise-women of Democratic politics with the potential to turn out millions of establishment and progressive voters in November.

Trump considering order on pre-existing condition protections, which already exist

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump announced on Friday he will pursue an executive order requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, something that is already law.

Why it matters: The Affordable Care Act already requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration is currently arguing in a case before the Supreme Court to strike down that very law — including its pre-existing condition protections.