Forum Communications blacked out three North Dakota ABC affiliates on DirecTV Thursday right before the stations were set to broadcast the highly rated first game of the NBA Finals.
The broadcast retransmission licensing impasse dates back to March 31, when the previous deal between DirecTV parent company AT&T (NYSE: T) and Forum expired. Forum waited more than two months to draw its line in the sand, blacking out a major programming event for viewers of WDAY-TV in Fargo, WDAZ-TV in Devils Lake and KBMY in Bismarck.
"Our stations' current carriage agreement with DirecTV expired March 31st, 2016, but to accommodate DirecTV and avoid a disruption of service to DirecTV subscribers, we granted DirecTV an extension of our old agreement through May 30th, 2016, and we granted DirecTV another extension through June 1st, 2016," Forum said on the WDAY-TV website. "Unfortunately, notwithstanding our best effort to reach a new agreement, DirecTV is choosing not to provide you with our award-winning, highly rated stations."
"We intend to get Forum Communications' three local stations back into North Dakota customers' lineups and share their frustration," DirecTV said in a statement. "Forum is prohibiting its signals from reaching these customers' homes unless they receive a significant increase in their current fees just to let the same families keep watching shows that remain available for free over-the-air and often online at ABC.com or CWTV.com. ABC Sports is also streaming its NBA Finals games live at ABC.com and to fans using the WatchABC app for Windows 10, iPads or Android-enabled tablets. Broadcasters have intentionally blacked out their local communities more than 200 times over the past year, typically attempting to get increased – and often record – fees for conventional 'free' broadcast TV. Forum has unfortunately suspended its stations from other North Dakota providers' customers before, so we appreciate our customers' patience as we work to get these stations back as soon as possible while attempting to resolve this matter quickly, reasonably, and with the least inconvenience."
"Companies such as DirecTV, reportedly, pay almost four times more for less popular program services than the price we are asking DirecTV for the top rated signals of WDAY-TV, WDAZ-TV and KBMY-TV," Forum added in a lengthy FAQ explaining the impasse to customers. "In fact, DirecTV is, in short, demanding that our stations subsidize their operations to enable it to pay more for other programming services with whom we compete. It would be irresponsible for us to subsidize DirecTV's cost of operation and grant it all the special financial benefits it is demanding."
Forum said DirecTV dropped its stations, not the other way around. "Is this the only station DirecTV has dropped?" the FAQ asks.
"No," Forum responded. "DirecTV is now owned by AT&T. We are advised by the National Association of Broadcasters that in the last two years, more than four out of five service interruptions (84 percent) involved AT&T/DirecTV/Dish. They dropped 193 stations in 2015 and 26 stations so far this year."
- read this WDAY-TV announcement
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