A quick resolution regarding retransmission consent payments between Northwest Broadcasting and DirecTV looks less and less likely. The satellite-TV provider and the station group, whose KAYU Spokane, WICZ-WBPN Binghamton (N.Y.) , KMVU Medford (Ore.) and KFFX Yakima went dark for DirecTV subscribers after the New Year's Eve ball dropped, aren't even speaking at this point.
"There are no negotiations," says Northwest Broadcasting President Brian Brady Tuesday. "They've totally broken down."
DirecTV says Northwest is being unreasonable in its demands. "What they are asking for right now is astronomically higher than what we currently pay any other station group for local channels, regardless of their size," the company said in a statement. "Profits or not, accepting a 600% increase would cause a customer's bill to become ridiculously high and we have to take a stand. Thus far, we have not received a counter offer from them."
Brady says he's prepared to negotiate. He's fielded over a hundred phone calls from viewers at this point, winning some over with his perspective on the retrans stalemate. He's also encouraging them to consider other subscription-TV options, such as Comcast and Dish Network.
"I explain to people that we're very apologetic about being off the air, but we can't afford to subsidize DirecTV's profit margins," Brady says.
Brady is the chairman of the Fox affiliates board. Northwest Broadcasting is based in Okemos, Michigan.
DirecTV also suggests it's willing to resume negotiations. "If Northwest really cares about their viewers, they should restore the channels so we can keep talks at the negotiating table where they belong," read its statement. "It's the only right thing to do and only Northwest can make that happen."
Viewers, meanwhile, are telling the dueling parties to make the heck up, and fast.
"How absolutely BRUTISH to make your loyal viewers pay while you cannot reach contract negotiations!" wrote Yakima resident MaryAnne LaRoque on broadcastingcable.com. "Fox 11 is the only way I can watch my Seahawks as I live in Yakima!!!! How horrible to not let your viewers watch their programs!"
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.