DirecTV in Retransmission Dispute With Tribune

4:11 PM PST 03/26/2012 by Paul Bond

A current deal expires March 31, and Tribune is informing consumers that their satellite service might not carry "American Idol," "Glee," "Modern Family" and other popular programming after that date.

Tribune Co. is threatening to yank several TV channels nationwide, including KTLA Los Angeles and WGN America, from DirecTV over a dispute concerning retransmission fees.

The snag in negotiations was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, which is owned by Tribune and run by CEO Eddy Hartenstein, ironically the former CEO of DirecTV.

The deal between Tribune and DirecTV expires at midnight March 31.

“Despite our best efforts, DirecTV is refusing to offer a fair deal, and we remain far apart in negotiations,” Tribune Broadcasting president Nils Larsen said Monday.

“We anticipate that Tribune will honor its 165-year history of serving the public interest and allow the stations to remain on as we continue to negotiate,” DirecTV countered. “We believe Tribune’s local news and other programming is important to the public, have always compensated Tribune fairly and have no problem continuing to do so. We have absolutely no intention of denying anyone access to these stations, unless Tribune specifically demands it.”

In the past, DirecTV has paid for WGN America, a national cable channel that carries Chicago Cubs baseball games and Chicago Bulls basketball games, though not for other stations in 16 markets. Tribune says its stations provide 700 hours of local news, traffic, weather and sports coverage, as well as entertainment programming.

“For more than 10 years, DirecTV has paid popular broadcasters for the right to distribute their programming,” Tribune said. “DirecTV has never compensated Tribune for the rebroadcast of its television stations, and Tribune is now asking for an agreement that is similar to those that DirecTV already has in place with hundreds of other broadcasters and program providers.”

Tribune’s website also encourages visitors to voice their concerns to DirecTV about potentially losing programming and includes a link to a site dubbed TellDirecTV.com. The site includes a map outlining the locations of Tribune stations and provides their network affiliations.

“Those markets in which Tribune owns the local Fox affiliate, DirecTV subscribers will lose entertainment programming such as American Idol, Glee, New Girl and sports programming such as NASCAR and Major League Baseball,” Tribune informs visitors to its site. “In those markets where Tribune owns the local affiliate of The CW Network, DirecTV subscribers will lose programming such shows as America’s Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries.  In New Orleans, where Tribune owns the local ABC affiliate, Modern Family and NBA basketball games will be unavailable to subscribers.”

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