The carriage standoff between DirecTV and Raycom Media has blacked out Big Four network affils on the satcaster in major markets including Cleveland, Cincinnati, Charlotte, N.C., and West Palm Beach, Fla.
The stations went down as of Sept. 1 after what Raycom described as three months of negotiations on a new agreement. The blackout affects 53 stations in 37 markets, covering about 13.1% of U.S. TV households. The dispute has taken out CBS affils in Cleveland and Charlotte; Fox affils in Cincinnati. West Palm Beach and Birmingham, Ala., and the NBC affil in Louisville, Ky., among others.
“This is frustrating for DirecTV customers who rely on Raycom stations for information and entertainment. We share their frustration and are committed to doing everything we can to resolve this issue and have been for the last 12 weeks of discussions,” said Raycom Media president-CEO Paul McTear.
DirecTV said Raycom was seeking “more than double” the fees compared to its most recent deal. The satcaster also described the situation as Raycom “withholding” its stations.
“We will always work to protect our customers and prevent them from enduring any unnecessary interruptions, no matter how brief. We appreciate their patience since it has a direct impact on their bill,” DirecTV said in a statement. “Despite Raycom’s unnecessary blackout, NFL and college football fans can see all of the first few week’s action uninterrupted, and the majority of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC series won’t premiere for several more weeks.”
The Raycom-DirecTV dispute is the latest retrans flare-up to hit small- and medium-sized markets. The largest TV station groups covering the biggest markets have been mostly quiet on the retrans front since this time last year, when Time Warner Cable and CBS ended a monthlong battle that affected the nation’s largest markets. But smaller markets have seen retrans skirmishes on a near daily basis for the past few years, since broadcasters became more aggressive in seeking higher carriage fees from MVPDs.
Raycom recently had brief station blackouts amid retrans negotiations with satcaster Dish Network and Cox Cable.
The simmering tensions have prompted many calls for the FCC to overhaul the rules government retransmission consent protocols between broadcasters and MVPDs. The American Television Alliance, a clutch of large cable operators, DirecTV and others, are lobbying for a reform dubbed “Local Choice,” an a la carte option in which subscribers would have the option of choosing which local stations to pay for at rates set by broadcasters.
“Raycom Media’s blackout of DirecTV subscribers shows exactly why Local Choice is needed,” the ATVA said in a statement Tuesday. “DirecTV subscribers would be able to decide if their ‘local’ Raycom station is worth double what they’re paying now.”