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When Tom Garber and his friends sat down to watch the Denver Broncos' last regular-season game Sunday, they received an unwelcome sight - nothing but a blue screen and a message from DISH Network.

"This station has blocked this channel after making outrageous rate demands," the screen read. "DISH made numerous attempts to avoid interruption of service to our valued customers including offering an extension. This offer was flatly refused."

The televised message was Garber's first notification that anything might interrupt his television viewing. The Bar Nunn resident said he received nothing to tell him about the situation prior to New Year's Day.

"You got people over and you're all going to sit and watch a game and then there's no game on," he said.

After making some calls to determine who could still view the game on TV, Garber's group relocated to his brother-in-law's. Garber said he would have liked to know the station would be blocked ahead of time or seen the station removal postponed to Monday.

"I just think both parties were very unfair to the customers," he said.

DISH Network dropped ABC, CBS and FOX affiliates in Casper and local ABC and Fox stations in Cheyenne around midnight Saturday after no deal on a new contract was reached with stations' owners -- Wyomedia Corp., Silverton Broadcasting and Mark III Media.

The Broncos game aired on CBS.

A statement released by the company cited "unreasonable demands" and "an outrageously unacceptable rate increase" as the source of disagreement while negotiating a new contract. The previous agreement between the stations and network ended Jan. 1.

Representatives for DISH Network and the Casper-area broadcasters could not be reached for comment Monday.

Casper's KTWO, an ABC affiliate also known as K2TV; KFNB, a FOX affiliate; and KGWC, a CBS affiliate, have been removed from the service provider's distribution. Cheyenne's KLWY-DT2, an ABC affiliate; and KLWY, a FOX affiliate, have also been suspended. Local programming is still free over the air if an antenna and HD receiver or converter box is used.

Casper's NBC affiliate, KCWY, is not involved in the situation.

Negotiations between DISH Network and Waterman Broadcasting in Ft. Myers, Fla., were also at a stalemate as the midnight deadline neared Saturday, according to reports from the Naples Daily News. Some customers in the corporation's six-county coverage area were at risk of losing local ABC and NBC channels.

The network and the broadcasting company had reached an agreement by Monday, according to www.fairsatellite.com. The network is directing customers to the same website for more information about the Wyoming station negotiations.

"While DISH Network has reached out multiple times today to WyoMedia Corp, Silverton Broadcasting and Mark III Media, they have refused to come to the phone to negotiate," DISH Network says on the website. "The result is our current agreement with them has expired and they have blocked your programming. DISH Network wanted to avoid customers being impacted and offered an extension. This offer was flatly refused."

"We will continue to work diligently for reasonable rates and remain hopeful we can reach a fair agreement," Dish Network states online.

For Garber, who watches the Broncos every Sunday, the decision to stay with the company will depend on how quickly a resolution is reached with local stations.

"I haven't made a decision to dump them, but that could happen, especially if they don't get this resolved quickly," he said.

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Reach city reporter Kelly Byer at 307-266-0639 or kelly.byer@trib.com.

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