Is EchoStar [DISH] chmn Charlie Ergen trembling and counting the days until a deadline that could have Viacom [VIA] pulling CBS signals in 15 Dish Net markets? Doesn’t sound like it, with Ergen saying Thurs he wasn’t even certain when the temporary restraining order expires (it’s at the end of Mon). CBS is an "essential network," he says, but he’s ready to draw the line. "This is extortion at the highest level." In addition to CBS, Dish would lose 20 Viacom-owned cable nets, including Nick. Ergen claims Viacom is tying CBS illegally to 6 nets he doesn’t want to carry any more and 1 net that he doesn’t want to add-and he said it wants 40% increases for the nets. He also says EchoStar’s offer to Viacom was the most it has offered anyone for retrans consent. EchoStar has filed an anti-trust suit against Viacom; it lost a request for a preliminary injunction last week. "It completely eliminates the independent voice," he says of the proposed deal, noting Oxygen is the #1 requested net not carried by Dish. Instead of Oxygen, Dish would have to carry nets like Noggin and Nick Gas ("what’s Gas? Sounds like something you’d get at a Mexican restaurant" Ergen quips). While he’s not optimistic, he believes there’s time to work out a deal or another retrans extension.

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