After a tense public standoff, the witching hour never came for Fox and DirecTV. The two sides reached a new carriage agreement hours before Monday’s midnight deadline that kept a slew of cable channels from being pulled off the air.
Agreement extended beyond cable nets like FX and National Geographic Channel to other News Corp.-owned TV properties that don’t technically fall under the Fox Networks umbrella including Fox Broadcasting Co. and the O&O stations that carry the nets’ programming. In addition, News Corp. came to terms on other cable channels including Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.
What’s not clear is whether these separate agreements have been consolidated into one overall deal or if they remain distinct from each other. Even if they are still separate agreements, sources indicated that all of the deals will now terminate at the same time, though the length of the new pact (or pacts) isn’t yet known.
Financial terms were not made public, though sources indicate Fox exacted a significant increase for the channels. It’s not, however, expected, to be as high as the 40% increase DirecTV claimed Fox was seeking.
The companies announced the resolution about 3:15 p.m. PT, less than nine hours before the channels’ were set to go dark if a deal couldn’t be hammered out. With 19.4 million subscribers, DirecTV is the second-largest subscription TV provider in the U.S. behind Comcast.
DirecTV and Fox said in a joint statement: “We both know the past 10 days have been challenging, but we’re pleased that both sides could eventually come together to ensure our viewers continue to enjoy Fox programming.”
The previous carriage deal for Fox Networks expired Oct. 1, but the companies agreed to a one-month extension to allow negotiations to continue. That detente was interrupted on Oct. 20, when DirecTV unilaterally decided that the channels in question would be removed by Nov. 1 if a deal couldn’t be reached.
The channels that would have been affected also included Speed, Fuel TV, Fox Soccer, Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Deportes, and 19 regional sports nets.
The deal for Fox’s broadcast network and stations was not scheduled to expire until Dec. 31, but News Corp. sought to combine them into the current negotiations — a move that likely gave the conglom significant leverage.
DirecTV filed a complaint with the FCC on Thursday alleging that Fox was deliberately misleading consumers with its advertisements regarding the dispute into thinking that the broadcast network faced Nov. 1 removal.
Affiliate agreements for Fox News and Fox Business weren’t scheduled to expire until sometime in early 2012.
While the companies were able to avert blackout, the standoff played out publicly via dueling websites and on-air recriminations. DirecTV CEO Michael White was featured in a spot that got heavy rotation on DirecTV during the past few days. Kurt Sutter, exec producer of FX drama “Sons of Anarchy,” filmed a spot pointing viewers to a KeepMyNets.com website promoting Fox’s position. Fox even devoted multiple commercials during last week’s World Series to assail the satcaster.
DirecTV was represented at the negotiation table by Derek Chang, exec VP of content strategy and development. Fox Networks was represented by Mike Hopkins, prexy of distribution and exec VP Michael Biard.
(Jon Weisman contributed to this story.)