Published April 01, 2012
NEW YORK – Tribune Broadcasting said there's been no settlement with DirecTV Inc. in their contract negotiations, which means DirecTV subscribers in 19 U.S. markets are losing access to certain programming.
In a statement late Saturday, Tribune Broadcasting said that without a deal in place, by federal law DirecTV cannot carry the signal of Tribune's local television stations after midnight, when the agreement expires.
The affected markets include New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Tribune president Nils Larsen called the situation "extremely unfortunate."
In its own statement, DirecTV said it had hoped Tribune would allow its programming to remain up while negotiations continue. But as it struck midnight in each time U.S. time zone, Tribune channels carried by DirecTV were set to go blank.
Earlier, DirecTV said that it had accepted the financial terms that Tribune's management offered it by telephone two days ago. But Tribune came out with its own statement shortly after, saying that it had not reached a deal or come to terms with DirecTV on any aspect of the contract.
DirecTV fired back, saying in another statement that it had a handshake deal with Tribune on Thursday with an agreed upon rate for their channels.
"Their actions are the true definition of `bad faith' in every sense of the term," DirecTV said.
The satellite television provider also wondered whether Tribune was having difficulty negotiating because of its bankruptcy process.
"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," DirectTV said.
Negotiations have been ongoing for months.
DirecTV subscribers in the markets where Tribune owns the local Fox affiliate will lose access to programs such as "American Idol" and Major League Baseball. Where Tribune owns the local affiliate of The CW Network, DirecTV subscribers will be unable to see shows such as "Gossip Girl" and "Vampire Diaries."
Larsen said in a statement on Thursday that if an agreement is not reached, DirecTV subscribers will still be able to watch programs on broadcast stations for free in high definition with a TV antenna or by signing up with an alternative pay-TV provider.
Tribune's broadcasting group owns or runs 23 television stations, WGN America on national cable and Chicago radio station WGN-AM. Its publishing arm includes daily newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.
DirecTV serves 32 million people in the U.S. and Latin America.