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DirecTV subscribers lose access to WBTV

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

DirecTV subscribers lost access to WBTV on Monday after the satellite provider and the CBS affiliate’s parent company failed to reach a broadcast retransmission deal.

Negotiations were ongoing Monday between DirecTV and Montgomery, Ala.-based Raycom Media, which owns WBTV and 52 other television stations mostly throughout the Southeastern United States.

The companies had been negotiating for three months but could not come to an agreement before the deadline passed Sunday, leading to the blackout. The disagreement revolves around retransmission fees DirecTV pays Raycom to air its programming.

“We continue to work diligently for a resolution to this matter, but so far we have been unable to reach an agreement,” WBTV said in a statement. “This is particularly disappointing because all the other TV providers in our area have agreements with us and those agreements are fundamentally similar to the one we have been negotiating with DirecTV.”

WBTV is The Charlotte Observer’s news partner.

In its own statement, DirecTV said Raycom Media is denying DirecTV customers access to its local broadcast stations “unless they pay more than double just to receive the same broadcast shows that remain available over the air for free.”

DirecTV added that the company works hard to protect its customers from unnecessary interruptions, no matter how brief.

In the dueling statements, the two companies took swipes at each other:

“You pay (DirecTV) 100 (percent) of your bill each month. Why shouldn’t you get 100 (percent) of your channels?” WBTV’s statement says.

DirecTV told subscribers: “Fewer people watch shows on local stations than ever before, but broadcasters continue to demand everyone pay more to get the few shows they do watch.”

WBTV will remain available on other providers and will also remain available for free over the air. Newscasts are streamed live at http://wbtv.com/live, and most CBS programming is available online.

Last year, a dispute between Raycom and Dish Network kept WBTV off that satellite provider. That blackout lasted about a week.

The (Columbia, S.C.) State contributed.

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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