Tribune, DirecTV in stalemate


Tribune BroadcastingUPDATE: There was no deal afterall. The Tribune stations were pulled from DirectTV as of midnight Saturday (3/31).

It looked like a past-deadline impasse had been averted in negotiations between Tribune and DirecTV over consent to retransmit Tribune’s broadcast television stations and WGN America. But an announcement from DirecTV proved premature, as yet there is no deal, and the stations are disappearing from the DirecTV lineup.

Contract expiration was 3/31/12; the parties were said to have agreed to rates on the afternoon of 3/29/12, but Tribune execs said that was not the case.

The deal is to cover the satcaster’s carriage of 23 Tribune broadcast television outlets. They will continue to discuss terms for carriage of Tribune’s WGN America.

DirecTV’s Dan Hartman stated, “We accept the rate proposal Tribune set forth on Thursday for the local channels and look forward to completing this agreement. 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.”

RBR-TVBR observation: We will take this opportunity to do a little preaching on behalf of broadcasters, based on our own personal experience, to illustrate why it is important that broadcasters receive fair compensation for the high value programming they provide to MVPDs, which the MVPDs in turn use to sell subscriptions.

When Hurricane Irene was on her way to our small coastal North Carolina town, we were able to track the progress of the storm on our favorite local television station, Gray’s NBC WITN Greenville NC. We were also able to check out separate independent reports on numerous other area broadcast outlets, both from the Greenville-New Bern NC and Norfolk-Portsmouth VA DMAs.

Our local cable system, on the other hand, had no coverage whatsoever that we were aware of. Oh sure, they brought us The Weather Channel, and that was a good addition to the mix for awhile. But when Irene continued her path to the north, TWC followed and barely mentioned us again.

Our need for local information after Irene left was acute, and only local broadcasters were providing it. That is more than enough justification for earning a retransmission fee on par with most if not all cable channels. Add in the fact that local broadcast stations are usually the most watched stations on an MVPD’s list and fair compensation for broadcast outlets becomes a no-brainer.

End of sermon.