EchoStar pulls OLN after failing to show NHL games

DENVER -- The owner of The Dish Network said Thursday it pulled the Outdoor Life Network from its system after the cable channel failed to provide NHL games to the nation's second-largest satellite television provider.

EchoStar Communications Corp. spokesman Marc Lumpkin said the network did not show games on Oct. 10-11 and on Monday and Tuesday as advertised. "We were not given advance notice that they would not show the programming," he said.

Although best known for broadcasting the Tour de France and cyclist Lance Armstrong, OLN this fall took over broadcasting National Hockey League games on cable from ESPN.

The contract dispute between EchoStar and OLN revolves around OLN's placement in a higher-priced channel package by Dish Network, which is distributed to fewer viewers.

OLN, owned by cable giant Comcast Corp., set a requirement that the channel must be seen by 40 percent of a cable or satellite TV system's viewers in order for it to broadcast the NHL games. It said the Dish Network has failed to meet that requirement.

"Hockey is a major sport that deserves to be seen as other major sports are on a broadly distributed tier," OLN spokeswoman Amy Phillips said.

Lumpkin declined to comment on the specifics of the dispute.

EchoStar would have to move the channel from its top package to a lower-cost package that may have fewer channels but more viewers.

That would raise the fees Dish Network viewers pay.

"We work hard to provide choice for customers and to keep prices low," Eric Sahl, an EchoStar senior vice president, said in a statement. "Most of our customers have made the decision they do not want to pay the additional cost of watching the channel."

EchoStar hasn't been afraid to take on networks before. In March 2004, it pulled Viacom Inc. programming -- including MTV, the Comedy Channel and Nickelodeon -- from the Dish Network for two days until an agreement was struck on a long-term contract.

Based in suburban Englewood, Colo., EchoStar's Dish Network has about 11.4 million customers.