DIRECTV Completes Six Retransmission Deals; Northwest Broadcasting Only Station Owner to Black Out Local Channels in Attempt to Extract Outrageous 600% Increase
DIRECTV Concludes Successful Deals with Hearst, Granite, Gannett,
Red River Broadcasting, KLAS-TV and Sarkes-Tarzian Broadcast Groups but
Northwest Refuses Requests to Keep Channels Up While Talks Continue or
For Arbitration Leaving Its Viewers in the Lurch
EL SEGUNDO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--
DIRECTV sharply rebuked Northwest Broadcasting today for attempting to
"extort" a more than 600 percent fee increase to carry its local
channels and forcing DIRECTV to take down broadcast networks in five
markets. DIRECTV asked Northwest to keep the channels up while
negotiations continued or bring the issue to arbitration to avoid any
programming disruption to its customers, but Northwest refused and
demanded the channels be taken down.
The Northwest blackout will take place at midnight PT tonight, affecting
DIRECTV customers in Binghamton, N.Y.; Medford, Ore.; Yakima and
Spokane, Wash.; and Laredo, Texas.
"We are appalled by the irresponsible behavior of Northwest
Broadcasting, which has decided they would rather deprive our customers
of their local channels, than make even an honest and good faith attempt
to reach a fair deal in contract negotiations," said DIRECTV's Chairman,
CEO and President Mike White. "For local broadcast station owners to
brazenly hold viewers hostage in an attempt to extort fees that are
astronomically higher than what we pay other local broadcasters is flat
out wrong. We hope that Northwest will ultimately come to the table in
good faith to discuss reasonable terms and fees and they will quickly
restore programming to our customers."
He added, "I am sitting at the negotiating table with hundreds of
thousands of my customers right behind me. Not a single one of them
wants to pay a 600% price increase."
DIRECTV agreed to pay Northwest a fair market price increase that was
consistent with fees it negotiated in other recently concluded contract
talks for local broadcast channels. In the past weeks alone, DIRECTV was
able to come to a fair deal with broadcast groups Gannett, Granite,
Hearst, Red River Broadcasting, KLAS-TV and Sarkes-Tarzian, affecting
millions of DIRECTV customers.
DIRECTV also pointed out that broadcasters like Northwest have been
granted a number of special privileges by the federal government
including free use of the public airwaves and have a responsibility to
consumers to provide access to their content.
"We believe Northwest has now brazenly abused that privilege when they
attempt to manipulate consumers through channel blackouts and threats in
order to force their unreasonable demands on distributors like DIRECTV,"
said White. "And just as broadcasters have a responsibility to protect
their viewers from programming disruptions, we have an obligation to
protect our customers from unwarranted and outrageous fee increases that
further drive up the costs of our programming services and create
economic pressure on consumers at a time when they can ill afford it."
DIRECTV noted that the tenor of contract discussions with station owners
has changed dramatically in recent years and has seen an increasingly
belligerent attitude among broadcasters who are demanding unprecedented
fee hikes and threatening blackouts.
While this is of great concern to DIRECTV and other distributors, it has
not escaped the attention of the Federal Communications Commission or
members of Congress in Washington. The FCC said it will begin the
process of examining how to protect customers from the kind of behavior
displayed by Northwest and other station owners, who have been involved
in contentious contract negotiations this past year. DIRECTV intends to
bring Northwest's egregious behavior to the attention of the Federal
Communications Commission when it begins its review of retransmission
rules this year.
DIRECTV (NASDAQ: DTV) is the world's most popular video service
delivering state-of-the-art technology, unmatched programming, the most
comprehensive sports packages available and industry leading customer
service to its 27.6 million customers in the U.S. and Latin America. In
the U.S., DIRECTV offers its 19.1 million customers access to over 160
HD channels and Dolby-Digital® 5.1 theater-quality sound
(when available), access to exclusive sports programming such as NFL
SUNDAY TICKET™, award winning technology like its DIRECTV®
DVR Scheduler and higher customer satisfaction than the leading cable
companies for ten years running. DIRECTV Latin America, through its
subsidiaries and affiliated companies in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina,
Venezuela, Colombia, and other Latin American countries, leads the
pay-TV category in technology, programming and service, delivering an
unrivaled digital television experience to 8.5 million customers.
DIRECTV sports and entertainment properties include three Regional
Sports Networks (Northwest, Rocky Mountain and Pittsburgh) as well as a
65 percent interest in Game Show Network. For the most up-to-date
information on DIRECTV, please call 1-800-DIRECTV or visit directv.com.
Robert Mercer, 310-964-4683
News Provided by Acquire Media