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The Tribune Broadcasting vs DirecTV Feud Ends Somewhat Peacefully

Both DirecTV and Tribune Company have separately issued statements that their extremely nasty feud over retransmission rates has finally been settled. As of approximately 8:00pm this evening, DirecTV has restored the Tribune-owned 23 local television stations (including WGN-TV in Chicago) in 19 television markets and superstation WGN America to its subscribers. Now that both sides have agreed on a payment plan, Tribune Broadcasting has given permission to DirecTV to broadcast its channels as it previously had.

The agreement between both sides is for a term of five years. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In tonight's statement from Tribune Company, Tribune Broadcasting President Nils Larsen said: "We are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement with DirecTV and to return our valuable news, entertainment and sports programming to DirecTV subscribers. On behalf of Tribune Broadcasting, I want to thank viewers across all of our markets for their support, understanding and patience during the negotiating process - we truly regret the service interruptions of the last several days."

Still stinging from the nastiness of the Tribune's negotiation tactics of the last week and a half, DireTV's statement clearly showed its unhappiness with the Chicago-based media giant, while expressing its happiness at a resolution. Derek Chang, Executive Vice President of Content, Strategy and Development for DirecTV, said tonight: "We're pleased that Tribune and their creditors now recognize that all DIRECTV wanted from day one was to pay fair market rates for their channels. It's unfortunate that Tribune was willing to hold our customers hostage in an attempt to extract excessive rates, but in the end we reached a fair deal at market rates similar to what we originally agreed to on March 29. On behalf of our customers, we are very happy to close the deal and put this behind us."

DirecTV was forced to remove the Tribune-owned stations from its plethora of transmitted channels starting at 11:00pm last Saturday night. Each hour, when a US time zone hit Midnight, the Tribune-owned stations on DirecTV within that time zone went dark. WGN America went dark nationwide seconds after 2:00am early Sunday morning, which is Midnight in the Pacific time zone.

Ugly negotiation tactics by Tribune Company for almost a week, became an even uglier war of words on both sides after the forced blackouts occurred. DirecTV filed a complaint to the FCC about the Tribune's reneging of an offer that was supposedly agreed upon, while Tribune-owned properties, including television stations, newspapers, websites and its one radio station, constantly hammered DirecTV.

Unfortunately, over the last year or so, these kind of tactics have become fairly commonplace negotiating tricks by companies looking to get more money out of cable & satellite companies for retransmission rights. In almost every instance, agreements between the two sides are reached before the deadline, with a few rare cases, it happening soon after the deadline. That was the case here, as well.

The hysterics on both sides are now over and will be forgotten soon enough. In all, subscribers lost less than four days of WGN America and their local Tribune television station(s).

The good news for DirecTV subscribers, who are fans of the Tribune-owned television stations, is they won't have to deal with this again for another five years. The bad news is that when this current agreement ends after those five years, in the spring of 2017, there is a good chance this could flare up once again.

DirecTV's Chang also added in tonight's statement: "Five million American homes blacked out from their local broadcaster cries out for an examination in Washington, D.C of the decades old telecom law that encourages these impasses."


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