Ion, DirecTV Detail Distribution Deal

Ion Media Networks and DirecTV Inc. formally announced their new multiyear distribution agreement Wednesday, which continues carriage of the i network’s national feed on the satellite provider’s lineup through 2011.

As part of the pact, the two companies settled all pending legal disputes, they said in their press release. DirecTV had sued Paxson Communications Corp., which is now doing business as Ion Media Networks, in January over the changes the company had made in its programming -- changes that DirecTV alleged violated the content provisions of their carriage deal.

"We are glad to have settled this matter and look forward to a positive and productive relationship going forward," DirecTV executive vice president of programming acquisitions Dan Fawcett said in a prepared statement.

DirecTV had been carrying both Ion’s i network national feed across the country, as well as the company’s TV stations in 35 markets.

Under the new deal, the direct-broadcast satellite provider will continue to offer the national feed, but will only carry Ion’s TV stations, local to local, in nine markets, an official familiar with the matter said. In the markets where DirecTV drops Ion local TV stations, it will carry the i network national feed in the station’s former -- and lower -- channel slot.

Within three years, DirecTV will increase its distribution of Ion TV stations, carrying them in all of the top 10 markets, as well as in 10 in the top 30 markets. In sum, DirecTV will offer Ion stations in 20 of the top 30 markets.

The DBS provider is also essentially eliminating the content restrictions Ion had under the old deal. And Ion will retain all of the ad inventory in its national feed.

“We are pleased to have extended our long-term relationship with DirecTV, a valuable partner in our nationwide distribution network," Ion CEO Brandon Burgess said in a prepared statement. "This agreement is an important step in reinforcing our network's strong distribution position both nationally and locally, and we look forward to building on our relationship with DirecTV and its customers in the years to come."

Paxson plans to officially change its corporate name to Ion Media Networks pending approval by its stockholders at its June 23 annual meeting.