DirecTV to Boot Paxson?

DirecTV Inc. is threatening to drop Paxson Communications Corp. programming -- its TV stations and its separate stand-alone service -- due to the change in format the company has made, according to a securities filing.

Right now, the No. 1 direct-broadcast satellite provider and Paxson -- which is changing its corporate name to Ion Media Networks Inc. -- are trying to negotiate a settlement of their dispute, according to an 8-K Paxson filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

DirecTV claimed that Paxson’s recent programming changes for its Pax TV network, now called “i,” violated the content restrictions of their affiliation agreement.

The satellite provider maintained that it has a right to end its affiliation agreement with Paxson “because it opted to change its service from one of general entertainment to a large infomercial and other paid-programming service,” DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said Tuesday.

DirecTV currently carries some Paxson TV stations as part of its local-to-local offering in certain markets. In cities where Paxson doesn’t have stations, it provides DirecTV with a separate feed with its programming that is carried on channel 255, according to Leslie Monreal, Paxson’s director of public relations. She declined to discuss the dispute between Paxson and DirecTV.

In January, DirecTV filed a complaint against Paxson seeking a ruling that it has a right to terminate their carriage deal and stop distributing Paxson’s programming.

On Feb. 28, DirecTV agreed to delay taking any action for 30 days so both parties can try to negotiate a settlement of their dispute.

If an agreement can’t be reached, Paxson said it its filing that it will lose 5.5% of its U.S. primetime households. Paxson could turn to must-carry to get back on DirecTV, but it can’t do so until several years from now.

“We would expect to regain distribution of our stations on DirecTV’s satellite system in approximately 33 months through the exercise of our must-carry rights at the next election period at the end of 2008,” Paxson’s filing said.