Contract dispute puts local CW signal to DirecTV in question

bcain@newsobserver.comFebruary 25, 2013 

Sinclair Broadcast Group is warning its customers that 87 TV stations in 47 markets may go dark on Thursday if a deal isn’t reached with satellite provider DirecTV.

In the Triangle, WLFL, the local CW affiliate, would be affected. The CW broadcasts “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Carrie Diaries,” “Arrow,” “Cult,” “90210,” “Nikita” and “Supernatural.”

In a statement, DirecTV described the discussions with Sinclair as “productive” but called out Sinclair for trying to magnify the likelihood of a carriage blackout to its customers.

“Our customers can be assured that neither DirecTV nor Sinclair has any intention of allowing the disruption of their local stations,” DirectTV said. “These are the same unnecessary threats, posing as warnings, that Sinclair has made to frighten customers of other pay-TV providers. We will compensate Sinclair fairly, but our customers should not be forced to pay more than twice as much for the same programs that remain available completely free of charge over the air and online.”

For its part in the negotiation, Sinclair is arguing for what it says is fair compensation for the broadcast of its programming.

“Given that we spend millions of dollars each year to buy and produce high-quality programming, it is only right and fair that satellite companies compensate us fairly for a portion of our cost, especially since they are reselling our content to their subscribers,” Sinclair said in a statement.

Sinclair has warned its customers of service disruptions during negotiations with Time Warner Cable, DISH Network and other providers during recent years, but so far disputes have been settled ahead of deadlines.

But in July 2012, a DirecTV battle with media company Viacom turned ugly and 17 Viacom channels (which include Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon) went dark for DirecTV customers for 10 days.

Capitol Broadcasting, which owns WRAL and WRAZ in Raleigh, engaged in similar drama with DirecTV earlier this year while renegotiating a new contract. Leading up to that Jan. 1 deadline, Capitol Broadcasting even offered free HD antennas to viewers. A compromise in that situation was announced half an hour before the station had promised to shut down its signal to DirecTV.

Sinclair owns a mix of Fox, ABC, CW, CBS and NBC stations across the nation.

Cain: 919-829-4579

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