Last month’s 48-hr Viacom-EchoStar imbroglio (Cfax 3/10-3/11) had barely been put to rest when chatter began about unresolved issues between Charlie Ergen’s DBS service and Turner. Although a year-end extension has allowed both entities to remain at the bargaining table well after the formal carriage agreement had expired, our spies tell us that Ergen’s patience may be at an end. We’re told that the EchoStar chief will use the next installation of "Charlie Chat," slated for Mon at 9pm ET, to inform Dish subs that Turner nets like CNN, Boomerang, CNNfn, Headline News, Cartoon, TCM and Turner South will get the hook, effective that night. (TBS and TNT will remain inviolate, as both established separate long-term deals with EchoStar in ’02.) The strategy is increasingly risky, given the blowback from the Viacom situation, but Ergen’s ace in the hole remains the depth of Dish’s programming roster. As he pointed out during March’s "Chat," Ergen has the option of referring subs to alternative nets to supplant yanked channels. (His example: Try Nickelodeon as a substitute for Cartoon, although even Charlie admitted that it would be hard to live without "SpongeBob.") Neither EchoStar nor Turner would comment on the negotiations or the likelihood of a blackout.

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