Senator's Plea to Watch Broncos Game Leads to Sudden End of Retrans Dispute

Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana)

Sen. Steve Daines had complained about a CBS station being blacked out on DirecTV, which is how he watches the NFL playoffs in Montana

Some lobbying and jawboning – two political tools – appear to have helped end a retransmission dispute just in time for kickoff in another arena.

A ten-day blackout on DirecTV of a CBS affiliate in Mont. and other local stations affecting 2.3 million subscribers came to a sudden end Saturday afternoon, only two days after U.S. Senator Steve Daines made a very public plea restore the signal in time for a NFL Playoff game Sunday.

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Sen. Haines, a freshman Republican from Mont., serves an area where there are a lot of Denver Broncos fans, and apparently is one himself.

“This afternoon,” a spokesman for the Senator announced, “Daines’ office received word from DIRECTV and Cordillera Communications that service will be restored today – just in time for tomorrow's National Football League playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos.”

 “Thousands of Montanans,” Senator Daines said in a statement, “rely on our local news stations for valuable local news programming and sports coverage. I’m glad to see that, following my letter, DIRECTV and Cordillera have found an agreement that will restore Montana subscribers’ access to CBS programming.”

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Cordillera serves 11 small and medium sized television markets in Ky., Calif., Texas, La., Colo. and Ariz., as well as Mont. With headquarters in Saint Paul, Minn., Cordillera is a division of Evening Post Industries, based in Charleston, S.C.

Daines, who had been in the House of Representatives, won election to the Senate this past November, and had support from the Tea Party, among others. He lives in Bozeman, Mont., and has four children. His bio indicates he is an active sportsman.

The blackout was the result of Cordillera asking for an increase in the license fee it receives for carriage of its stations from DirecTV. It is an example of a local station asking for increases under pressure from the major networks, which have an agenda to increase retransmission payments. What the local station group gets is eventually shared with the network.

In a letter sent by DirecTV executive vp and chief content officer Dan York to Sen. Daines on Jan. 9, he complained about “Cordillera’s current demands that we obligate Montana families to pay six times more just to see the same CBS programming.”

It is unknown if DirecTV worked out a better deal with Cordillera after receiving a letter from the Senator, but it does appear to have sped up the process.

“It's safe to say,” said Daines’ spokesperson, “that the resolution was found quickly after the Senator's urging.”