For anyone believing that retransmission fights between broadcasters and service providers had calmed down a bit (we're looking at you, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski), naptime is over. The latest battle of big names has begun: DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) vs. Tribune Broadcasting.
Tribune has a contract in place with DirecTV that comes due March 31, and has threatened to black out programming from its WGN America network and its stations in 16 markets for DirecTV subscribers if it does not get the new deal with retransmission fees from DirecTV. Among other things, that could mean no Cubs TV broadcasts for Cubs Nation viewers who subscribe to DirecTV.
The battle is pretty much following the script for retrans fights thus far, with both parties blaming each other and claiming the ball is in the other company's court. Tribune has started warning its viewers of the potential blackout by running on-air crawls, and is urging viewers to access its programming via HD antennas or switching to a different service provider if the blackout does occur.
Though Tribune owns many stations around the country, its threat may not carry the same weight as if it were one of the big four networks, but its willingness to go to war over retransmission fees shows how these battle are moving downstream--and definitely not going away.
-see this Variety story
Cox said retransmission fees forced it to raise rates
DirecTV was in a retransmission fight with Fox last year