Tribune had been up against at Sept. 30 contract expiration with U-verse for its 42 TV stations and WGN America. The sides went through at least three short-term extensions and some public drama about the potential for a blackout as they wrangled a new retransmission consent deal.
The Tribune pact underscores that AT&T intends to use the combined heft of DirecTV and U-verse’s subscriber base in negotiations with programmers. DirecTV has about 20.4 million subscribers in the U.S., making it second among MVPDs to Comcast, and about 5.9 million for U-verse.
The multi-year deal with Tribune expands carriage for WGN America by about 5 million subscribers — with expanded distribution on DirecTV adding more than 4 million subscribers and the rest coming from broader reach on the U-verse platform. Although the Sept. 30 contract deadline was only for U-verse’s carriage of Tribune stations, the new pact extends DirecTV’s retransmission pacts with Tribune that were to have expired next spring. The deal is believed to run for four years.
The additional subscribers puts WGN America over the 80 million households mark, which has been a goal for Tribune as it beefs up the entertainment cabler with original series.
The expanded distribution for WGN America will be in place by Jan. 1. DirecTV will also add East Coast and West Coast feeds of the channel, which will make it easier for viewers on the West Coast to find programs on the channel.