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Erik Burgess, Published December 28 2012

DirecTV customers could lose channels 4, 11 in new year

FARGO – A contractual disagreement between a satellite provider and Hoak Media, which operates the local NBC and CBS affiliates here, could leave thousands of DirecTV subscribers in the region without two major networks in the new year.

Unless a deal is reached before Jan. 1, about 30,000 DirecTV subscribers in the area will lose Channel 11, NBC affiliate KVLY, and Channel 4, CBS affiliate KXJB.

At the heart of the conflict are retransmission fees, which all cable and satellite providers pay local stations for the right to retransmit their signal.

KVLY/KXJB was in a similar conflict earlier this year with DISH Network before a resolution was reached.

KVLY/KXJB is requesting higher fees from DirecTV to better represent the number of viewers who tune in to the major networks, said Sean Kelly, the stations’ operations manager.

“The retransmission fees we’ve typically received have been more on par with the real niche cable networks – the SyFy or A&E or someone like that – and we simply feel it’s time to get a more fair value for the viewers we bring to the table,” Kelly said.

A spokesman for DirecTV said KVLY/KXJB is asking for five times more in fees.

The station’s news director, Ike Walker, would not comment on the specifics of the contract.

“I’m not going to go tit-for-tat with DirecTV,” Walker said.

He and Kelly said they’re not asking for nearly as much as “high-end” networks like ESPN, even though the major networks like NBC and CBS pull in more viewers.

“It is not a lot of money,” Walker said. “It’s fair to say that we’re talking about a very, very, very small portion of your typical monthly cable bill, satellite bill.”

Officials from the satellite provider said in a statement that only the local networks have the power to pull channels during such disputes.

“DIRECTV will not allow our customers to be disconnected from any of the Hoak Media or Parker Broadcasting stations unless both specifically demand it,” spokesman Tom Tyrer said.

Walker called DirecTV’s statement “blatantly inaccurate.”

While Dallas-based Hoak Media operates KXJB through a local management agreement, it is owned by Parker Broadcasting, of Plano, Texas.

A similar dispute occurred in June, when KVLY/KXJB services were cut for DISH Network subscribers over contractual disagreements.

A DISH spokesman at the time said KVLY/KXJB was pursuing a 200 percent increase in retransmission fees, a number the station’s management disputed. DISH said Hoak Media was also trying to stop it from providing a commercial-skipping DVR feature.

Tyrer said disagreements like these are becoming increasingly more common in the industry.

“There have already been a record 85 station-led blackouts this year, and the game is always the same,” he said. “Stations hold viewers’ loyalties against them by denying access to programs unless everyone agrees to pay more.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518


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