The countdown to the Super Bowl on Fox is on, but Northwest Broadcasting and DirecTV are barely speaking in their ongoing retransmission-consent standoff, which has resulted in multiple Fox stations going dark for subscribers to the satellite TV service.
Northwest Broadcasting-owned stations WICZ-WBPN Binghamton (N.Y.) , KMVU Medford (Ore.), KFFX Yakima and KAYU Spokane went dark for DirecTV subscribers as the new year rolled in, with Northwest and DirecTV disagreeing dramatically on how much the DBS leader should pay for the stations' signals.
The negotiations have been taking place at the top. Northwest president and CEO Brian Brady, also Fox affiliates board chairman, spoke on the phone with DirecTV topper Mike White January 21. But the two parties are far apart, and no negotiations are scheduled at the moment.
"This doesn't appear to be getting anywhere," said Brady yesterday. "We made multiple offers that have been rejected."
DirecTV, meanwhile, is standing by a statement it issued late last week. "Since both sides seem to be spinning their wheels at the moment, we ask Northwest to restore their channels and to let an independent arbitrator resolve this matter," said DirecTV senior vice president of programming acquisition Dan Hartman in the statement. "This solution will end consumer disruption and allow for an independent, unbiased, third-party to decide the value of their channels."
Brady says arbitration is not an option, as he believes the process of an arbitrator determining a given station's value, based on market size and previous retrans deals, can be erroneous. Other broadcasters may not have pushed for maximum value for their stations, he notes, making previous retrans pacts inaccurate benchmarks.
"I just think arbitration doesn't really work," he said.
DirecTV points out the amicable deals it's worked out to keep dozens of stations on the air, suggesting Northwest's demands are way off the mark. "Northwest is the odd man out," said a spokesperson.
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.
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