Deborah D. McAdams /
04.02.2012 05:01 PM
Tribune and DirecTV Send Mixed Signals
Satellite provider charges bad faith
 CHICAGO and El SEGUNDO, CALIF.: A retransmission stalemate between Tribune and DirecTV escalated over the weekend in dueling statements and culminated in station blackouts in several markets. 

DirecTV initially issued a statement on Saturday that it accepted Trib’s terms and that no stations would be blacked out. Tribune followed up with one saying no such agreement was reached. DirecTV followed up with another charging Tribune with “bad faith” negotiations, and trying to milk the situation for more because if its bankruptcy status.

The stalemate between the TV station group and the satellite TV provider went public last week, with Tribune warning that stations in several markets would be pulled from DirecTV over the weekend if no retrans agreement was reached. The most recent carriage agreement between the two expired on Saturday at midnight.

DirecTV released a statement early Saturday saying a verbal agreement had been reached between the two over the phone on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. 

“We accept the rate proposal Tribune set forth on Thursday for the local channels and look forward to completing this agreement,” DirecTV’s senior vice president of programming, Dan Hartman, said. “While we have been negotiating in good faith for two months, we believe Tribune's viewers and our customers are best served by making sure the local stations remain on our service without disruption first and will then negotiate a separate agreement for WGN America.”

Tribune came back with, “Tribune Broadcasting has not reached an agreement or come to terms with DirecTV on any aspect of its contract, which expires at midnight tonight. Any statement by DirecTV to the contrary is inaccurate and misleading.”

A few hours later, at around 11 p.m. EST, Tribune said it was pulling TV stations in 19 markets from DirecTV, and WGN America from the provider’s national lineup.

“By federal law, without an agreement in place, DirecTV cannot carry the signal of Tribune’s local television stations,” the broadcaster’s statement said. “Tribune’s local stations in the Eastern time zone will be the first to be denied by DirecTV to its subscribers. Stations in other time zones will follow.”

Tribune said that DirecTV had “never compensated” it for the station feeds and that it was asking for what “DirecTV already has in place with hundreds of other broadcasters and program providers.”

DirecTV fired back a sharply worded statement asserting that Tribune was taking advantage of the situation to gain leverage with creditors.

“We’re extremely perplexed as Tribune management and DirecTV had a handshake deal on Thursday with an agreed-upon rate for their channels,” the satellite provider said. “Their actions are the true definition of ‘bad faith’ in every sense of the term. We can’t help but wonder whether Tribune’s ability to negotiate a reasonable retransmission agreement with DirecTV is being undermined by the complexities and competing interests in their lengthy bankruptcy process.

“Despite our best efforts to compensate Tribune fairly for both WGN America and the local stations, it seems they are focused on unduly benefitting their creditors rather than viewers. Threatening station blackouts to extract an exorbitant fee for all of Tribune’s content may provide an improved return for certain banks and hedge funds, but is not in the interest of its viewers and is not a cure for bankruptcy,” the statement from DirecTV continued.
“If the local stations and WGN America do come down at midnight, it will be 100 percent Tribune’s decision to take them away from customers,” the statement said. “To come so close and then renege on terms that affect millions of customers defies Tribune’s long history of protecting the public interest. However, we hope Tribune does the right thing and honors their word, keeps the channels on and puts customers before creditors.”H

The blackout affected CW affiliates in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Hartford-New Haven, Conn.; Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland, Ore.; Washington and St. Louis, Mo.; Fox affiliates Grand Rapids, Mich.; Harrisburg-Lancaster, Pa.; Hartford-New Haven, Indianapolis Sacramento, Calif.; San Diego, Calif., and Seattle; the ABC affiliate in New Orleans; and MyNetworkTV affils in Philadelphia, and Washington.

Tribune’s flagship newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, reported that the blackout remained in effect as of at 8:36 p.m. Central time Sunday.
~ Deborah D. McAdams

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Posted by: Anonymous
Mon, 04-02-2012 01:51 AM Report Comment
Shame on both Sam Zell and Tribune for this upcoming blackout that resulted in the viewers from being able to watch the Cubs games. I feel that they are both trying to be like the Neil Bogarts of Casablanca Records fame of the 1970's, the Bernard Madoff's, the Enron's, and the Worldcom's of the 2000's by letting broadcast and cable operator greed get out of control so all of the head employees and bosses be able to have luxurious homes, luxurious cars, join luxurious clubs, and have other luxurious items just to make them very happy then trying and willingness to improve the quality of all the stations they owned and control and trying to make the Cubs fans very happy as well. I feel that Sam Zell has not learned enough from the Tribune bankruptcy in 2008. I hope and I wish that both Sam Zell and Tribune get scolded by both by the ACA and the FCC for making the viewers being forced to this blackout because they could not make a deal to get the stations back to it's customers sooner and with a fair deal and before the Cubs opening game. I hope and I wish that Sam Zell and Tribune goes out of the broadcast business in owning TV stations. I feel that both Sam Zell and Tribune are trying to bribe like the General Tire/RKO General of the 1960's and 1970's by not being very honest of not only the viewers by making them miss the Cubs games and also to Directv. I hope and I wish that the FCC would force Sam Zell and Tribune to allow Directv to carry it's stations without any interference, if Sam Zell and Tribune fails to allow Directv to carry it's stations, then the FCC would force Sam Zell and Tribune to give up control of all the stations they owned, if Sam Zell and Tribune fails to give up control of all the stations they owned, then the FCC would allow all the broadcasters be allowed to purchased any of the stations Sam Zell and Tribune owns and control with the broadcasters being required to make a real big concession that they would promised not to have any difficulties with all the cable and satellite operators when making deals to carry stations without any interference for 12 whole years with me wanting CBS to own WPIX, KTLA, WGN, and WDCW, News Corp to own WPHL, KTXL, KSWB, the Seattle duo, the Indy duo, the Connecticut duo, the New Orleans duo with 38 to MYNET, 26 to FOX, 54 to CW, and 8 to ABC, the Denver with KWGN to FOX with KDVR to CW, the Saint Louis with KPLR to FOX with KTVI to ABC and KDNL to CW, and WSFL to MYNET, and the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston CW stations going to Belo to meet FCC rules and regulators. I feel that both Sam Zell and Tribune are way too busy being the Rebecca Black Friday as well as trying be act like the Rodney Dangerfield's, the John Belushi's, and the Chris Farley's as the comedians of the broadcasting industry of not coming to reach a deal with Directv to carry it's stations to the viewers with Directv even before the Cubs opening game. I feel that both Sam Zell and Tribune are trying to turn into the SMU football of the 1980's to force Directv to accept a take it or leave it deal to carry it's stations. I urge all of the viewers with Directv to boycott both Sam Zell and Tribune right now for making the Directv viewers from being able to watch the Cubs games.
Posted by: Anonymous
Mon, 04-02-2012 09:43 AM Report Comment
You forgot Denver in your list of CW affiliates.
Posted by: Anonymous
Mon, 04-02-2012 05:28 PM Report Comment
I believe Tribune's viewers are best served by putting up an ordinary TV antenna like I did, and watching better quality HD right off the air for free. ;-)

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