DirecTV on Saturday said it had accepted Tribune Broadcasting's retransmission terms covering 23 local TV stations across the U.S. -- but Tribune subsequently issued a statement saying it had not agreed to any deal, with the previous contract set to expire at midnight.
Tribune Broadcasting has not reached an agreement or come to terms with DirecTV on any aspect of its contract, which expires at midnight tonight," the broadcasting company said. "Any statement by DirecTV to the contrary is inaccurate and misleading."
Earlier, DirecTV announced that it had accepted the financial terms Tribune's management offered by phone on Thursday, March 29, at 3:30 p.m. ET to carry its local broadcast stations. It said it would negotiate separately for WGN America, Tribune's national cable network.
"We accept the rate proposal Tribune set forth on Thursday for the local channels and look forward to completing this agreement," Dan Hartman, DirecTV senior vice president of programming, said in a statement issued around noon ET. "While we have been negotiating in good faith for two months, we believe Tribune's viewers and our customers are best served by making sure the local stations remain on our service without disruption first and will then negotiate a separate agreement for WGN America."
Tribune issued the statement that it had not reached an agreement with DirecTV at about 2 p.m. ET.
In a press release at 4:15 p.m. responding to Tribune's denial that a deal was in place, DirecTV said, "We're extremely perplexed as Tribune management and DirecTV had a handshake deal 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 continued, "We can't help but wonder whether Tribune's ability to negotiate a reasonable retransmission agreement with DirecTV is being undermined by the complexities and competing interests in their lengthy bankruptcy process. Despite our best efforts to compensate Tribune fairly for both WGN America and the local stations, it seems they are focused on unduly benefitting their creditors rather than viewers. 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."
The satellite TV company added that if the Tribune local stations and WGN America are pulled from DirecTV at midnight, "it will be 100% Tribune's decision to take them away from customers. To come so close and then renege on terms that affect millions of customers defies Tribune's long history of protecting the public interest. However, we hope Tribune does the right thing and honors their word, keeps the channels on and puts customers before creditors."
Chicago-based Tribune owns or operates 23 stations in 16 U.S. markets. The dispute with DirecTV involves its national cable network -- WGN America -- and 23 broadcast properties comprising independent stations and Fox, ABC and The CW affiliates in major markets including New York (WPIX-TV); Los Angeles (KTLA-TV), Denver (KWGN-TV); Philadelphia (WPHL-TV); and New Orleans (WGNO-TV).
DirecTV has set up a customer-information website on the dispute at directvpromise.com, while Tribune's is at telldirectv.com.
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