A circuit of three southwestern Montana television stations, including Missoula's KECI have been dropped from Dish Network. The drop occurred on Saturday night, December 7, and has since infuriated many in western Montana after they lost programming such as local news, Monday Night football, as well as the upcoming Olympic games.

The outrage, as can be seen in the following snapshot from KECI's own Facebook page, has been directed at both Dish (120 likes) and at KECI (read comments):

Photo courtesy of facebook/keci13

NBC Montana General Manager Dick Reingold said that the blackout is the result of a failed negotiation. In essence, NBC Montana wanted Dish Network to pay NBC Montana more per customer than Dish Network had paid in the past. Dish Network has claimed the increase was around 300 percent, while Reingold says the increase is "between a couple of pennies and three pennies per customer."

When pushed on the notion of a 300 percent increase, Reingold said, "when your dealing with small numbers, the percentages can make the money look bigger than it is."

In KECI's view, the fight is a David and Goliath struggle.

"Our company owns a few small TV stations," Reingold said. "Dish Network is a multibillion dollar satellite company. All we're asking for is a few pennies a day for our programming... that's what this is all about. Without it, if we weren't to get it, we wouldn't be the same TV station."

Dish Network is well known as a tough negotiator, in fact, Bloomberg Businessweek even ran a story this year titled "Dish Network,The Meanest Company in America," by Caleb Hanan. Notable to the recent KECI conflict, Hanan points out:

"A blackout is the height of hostility between a carrier and a network. According to the American Television Alliance, a coalition of consumer groups and cable companies, no carrier is more willing to do battle than Dish, which is responsible for 22 of the 42 blackouts recorded since March 2010. DirecTV, with 5 million more subscribers, has been involved in six."

It appears KECI is in familiar territory. By law, producers and distributors must have negotiated contracts on a regular basis, and though agreements pop up fairly regularly, Reingold said this negotiation has been different.

"This is the first time, in our companies history that this has happened," Reingold said. "Never before. We've done dozens of these agreements: with DirecTV, with Charter, we've done them with Dish before. We've always reached an agreement, sometimes it goes down to the wire, but we've never been forced off a system before."

Reingold is asking those that are upset to call Dish and "tell them they are upset" and to "tell them it's reasonable for a couple pennies a day for the great local news and other local programming."

Dick Reingold: