Belo in Fee Dispute With DirecTV, Which is Warning Customers They Could Lose WFAA

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Saw this heads-up for the first time last night. As it turns out, according to DirecTV's website, the satellite provider and Belo Corp. are engaged in a tussle over broadcast fees. Belo, which signed its agreement with the carrier in February 2001, says DirecTV isn't paying enough for the rights to broadcast its 16 local stations, among them WFAA-Channel 8, and is threatening to yank 'em when its contract expires November 1. Messages have been left for both parties, but I see the Idaho Stateman had a piece yesterday concerning this dispute, since Boise-based, Belo-owned KTVB is also on the potential chopping block.
What's the problem? Channel 7, owned by Belo Corp., says DirecTV underpays for the ability to offer customers KTVB's local programming and NBC shows.

"They pay channels with far fewer viewers more," KTVB President and General Manager Doug Armstrong told the Statesman.

Armstrong wouldn't say exactly how KTVB knows that, but said they "have a pretty good idea" what DirecTV pays around the country. He named ESPN, TBS, USA and Fox News as higher-paid channels.

"Traditionally, DirecTV has undervalued broadcasters, particularly KTVB," he said.
Tough talk aside, these kind of tussles are usually resolved well before the midnight hour. Just last fall, Belo was threatening to walk away from Time Warner and Dish Network, but they arrived at separate arrangements well before the go-dark deadline. Says DirecTV's message, "We value the Belo stations and are negotiating diligently to reach an equitable agreement with them."

Update at 2:50 p.m.: DirecTV just sent a statement concerning its stand-off with Belo Corp. It reads, in full:
Belo has decided to notify its viewers of our discussions, which is something they did during similar talks with Time Warner Cable and DISH Network last year. None of those customers ever lost access to Belo stations and we expect the same positive result here. Their TV commercials are nothing more than a routine approach to try and gain leverage in negotiations. DirecTV customers should ignore Belo's scare tactics and enjoy their DirecTV service as they always have.
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Carol Janik
Carol Janik

Why would DirectTV stop showing Wfaa?ABC & risk losing millions of customers!!

Gary
Gary

Carol - first of all, there are not "millions of customers" for WFAA on DirecTV, WFAA serves only the DFW market.  Secondly, although WFAA keeps running all those spots the last couple weeks blaming DirecTV, I think WFAA/Belo is much more to blame here.  Look at history, they've done EXACTLY the same thing within the last 12 months to the other two major Dallas distributors - DISH and TimeWarner.  So within a 12 month period, they've held ALL the companies serving Dallas hostage with demands for much more money, coupled with threats which were aired for all the consumers about losing ABC and WFAA content.

ricky
ricky

tired of being held hostage by both of these groups...ridiculous !!!! Going to buy me a set of rabbit ears 

oldpol2
oldpol2

I live in the mountains and don't get any OTA channels. It's sattelite or nothing. Cable is sure as heck not going to spend money to get their product here. I pay $137 per month just for internet via sattelite.

Rah
Rah

This is sad for DIRECTV customers but very true. All DIRECTVcustomers just might lose those channels on November 1st. That is why I'm gladI'm with DISH and employed by them because we just sign a long timecontract and don't have to worry about this happening for a while. I just don'tknow what I would do if it ever happened again because UFC just signed acontract with FOX and I can't miss that! I just feel bad for all those DIRECTVcustomers that have to go through this.

Gary
Gary

"Rah", what an absurdly ridiculous and obviously self-serving comment!  Did your employer give you a bonus for posting that drivel?  So its "sad for DirecTV customers" and you "feel bad for all those DirecTV customers who have to go through this", huh?  You have a terribly short memory, I guess - because EXACTLY one year ago, all those DISH customers were going through EXACTLY the same thing, with a threatened November 1st cutoff of service from WFAA.  So tell us, exactly what's the difference - except that the contract dates are a year apart???

jean
jean

i watch wfaa in the dallas ftworth area more than any other station if direct tv does not come to an agreement then i will have to go with  cable service elsewhere.....

Marygortega
Marygortega

I hope you can work things out because i love wfaa and directv  please stay togather

Tom_Bl
Tom_Bl

WFAA is advertiser supported.  It seems they should be happy to have the additional coverage provided by DirecTV and the others, and use it to increase advertising rates.  Years ago broadcast stations worked to increase coverage of their transmitting facilities for the same reason.  Remember "the tallest tower in Texas" ? 

Shannonblack40
Shannonblack40

What Belo fails to understand is that ABC shows can be watched online. So if they feel they don't want to part of Direct TV, that's okay I WILL watch other shows on my over 500 other channels and then watch the shows I like that were on channel 8 on the internet through ABC.com.

Gary
Gary

Okay, tried, failed, to find exactly which stations would be impacted.  Besides 8, which concerns me only for college football.  

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

ESPN vs. Belo-zebub?  Almost as easy a call as Maria Sharapova vs. Baby Irene.

Chasman
Chasman

DirecTv used to pay the local broadcasters out of fear they'd lose customers by not carrying those stations. I wonder how many viewers realize they'd get a better picture using rabbit ears? I wonder how many customers DirecTv would lose if they started running ads saying they were lowering rates by the amount they pay local broadcasters and instructing people on how to get the stations over the air? DirecTv could even pay for the rabbit ears in exchange for a one-year extension of the customer's contract. It seems to me the local broadcasters ought to be paying DirecTv for having access to their more-affluent customers. Belo is not going to win this one.

Anon
Anon

Belo will win this one because the government forces their content on Pay TV companies. simple as that.

Granny
Granny

I'm trying to think of a program---ANY program---that we watch on WFAA, and I can't think of anything, except for an occasional newscast. I don't think we'd miss WFAA if it disappeared. IMO,  network TV is the pits.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Totally agree. I think the last time I watched WFAA was for emergency weather updates during a tornado. But I have a scanner with NOAA and the HAM storm chasers to take care of that.

Granny
Granny

What scanner? We listen to Internet radio most of the time, but a scanner would be handy in bad weather.

Lisa Launius
Lisa Launius

Ditch the cable companies, get an antenna, and Hulu. Problem solved. Sports can be a problem but I've learned to deal with it.

TimCov
TimCov

At times I'm tempted to ditch the cable companies and buy a couple of Roku boxes (these things look great). But, I would miss the DVR service that comes from my cable company. A lot of the shows I watch I have not been able to find for immediate download.

Mark
Mark

Tim, my sister has a Roku and is thinking about doing the same thing.  I told her she should just drag one of her old TiVos out of the closet and put up an outdoor antenna. 

I'm pretty sure you can still use the TiVo as a DVR without buying the TiVo subscription.  You'd have to set up your recording sessions manually, but we did that with VHS machines for 20+ years until on-screen guides became ubiquitous.  You should probably be able to get one pretty cheap on eBay or CL.

Ben
Ben

WFAA has the worst OTA signal in Dallas. I don't care what their engineers say, their signal sucks. I will often switch from the pay cable signal over to OTA(antenna) for basketball and football games because the signal is much clearer. IF, a big IF, I can get the signal from Channel 8. I can pull in TV stations as far away as Tyler, Longview and Belton with the amplified antenna. Not Channel 8 sometimes. I get like 400 Mexican channels, 3 Indian(dot kind) and enough Jesus channels to make everyone watching, convert to Islam. But no Channel 8.

Mark
Mark

WFAA has a fine OTA signal and has since the early days of ATSC (digital) broadcasting.

If you're using a "bow-tie" antenna or something else that's significantly biased toward UHF, you may have problems receiving WFAA.  You could also be having a multipath problem that's biased toward the lower frequencies.

AFAIK, WFAA is the only commercial broadcaster in DFW still broadcasting on the VHF band.  Fox4 is now on UHF channel 35.  KXAS/NBC5 is now on channel 41.  KTVT/CBS11 has hopped around a bit but I think is now on channel 19.  KERA is on channel 14.

You mentioned being able to receive signals from Belton.  KCEN (Temple/Waco) broadcasts on VHF channel 9.  If you get a decent signal from them, your problem is most likely multipath instead of antenna-related.  KXII in Sherman used to have their digital signal on channel 20, but I think they may have moved back to their legacy allocation on VHF channel 12.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Some of us don't want to cobble together a cableless solution like that--more power to you if you're cool with it, but I wouldn't be.

A la carte would go a long way towards cable customers determining their own bill. It seems rather ridiculous when you start digging into how much some providers think their channels are worth per subscriber.

John_McKee
John_McKee

I just don't understand the argument that DirecTV owes WFAA money for a signal they broadcast for free themselves. In fact, if WFAA wasn't asking for money DirecTV would be required by law to carry the station.

This is all so ridiculous to me.

Stevesinbox2006
Stevesinbox2006

So I should be able to start an alt-weekly, call it the Dallas Looker-at-er, and use Big Bald Bob, Shotgun Jimmy's and all those foodies and DC9'ers  columns, blog posts, etc without compensating them or the Observer in any way?

Hey they give the magazine and website access away for free, who cares if I repackage it, right?  And I certainly shouldn't be forced to compensate the orginal creators, that would be un-American, wouldn't it?  It's not like the Constitution says anything about writers and creators owning the fruits of their labor...(/snark)

Hey John, what do you do?  Anything I can steal and profit off of, without paying you a fair rate?    

John_McKee
John_McKee

But it's not being repackaged, it's being presented exactly as intended with the exact amount of profit to WFAA that they would get for the signal they broadcast for free to the same people. In fact, if they television station doesn't want money from the cable operator, they can force it to carry the broadcast station, this was a provision they demanded because they were afraid the cable operators would not carry them and they would lose revenue because of it.

But I'm sure the Dallas Observer would be absolutely delighted if you paid for the printing an exact representation of their product with nothing added and then passed them out to readers in a way that they could report to advertisers.

Anon
Anon

this isn't a market transaction though. the government tips the scales in favor of the affiliates and has for some time now - as John pointed out, they could force the cable/satellite providers to incur the expense of carrying their channels if they wanted to. companies like Belo make the bulk of their revenue on advertising. if their station doesn't reach as many households, they lose money. again, if the cable guys balk at the retrans fees, Belo can just force them to carry the station anyways. and the entire basis for the legislation was that the growth in pay TV could result in cable operators not carrying free television, which Belo and others argued was a public good. now, they use the retrans agreements to gouge cable companies (and ultimately consumers) to be able to afford the lavish, billion dollars contracts they bid for things like the Olympics, NFL, NCAA, etc

if you wanted to start a competing local online newspaper and the government could force you to post Observer and DMN articles alongside the things you actually wanted to include, you'd be getting closer to how this relationship actually works.

Stevesinbox2006
Stevesinbox2006

No, it's not being presented exactly as intended. It's intended to be picked up as an over the air signal.  It's being packaged and sold by Direct TV as a deal where you get all these cool channels you might actually want to watch (VH1 Classic for Wilonsky, ESPN and FSSW for the Ghost of Richie Whitt, Food Network for the food bloggers, etc) along with the conveinenice of local channels for when you want to catch the local news or whatever lame sitcoms, and reality shows your local broadcasters are throwing out there...

I pay for Direct TV to get the channels I want, and I'm willing to pay them a couple bucks extra a month to be able to flip from ESPn to Channel 8 without putting down my DTV remote, picking up my TV remote and flipping to "air" from 'cable' on my inputs, then to flip to Channel 8 on the remote, just to see if Oklahoma is still kicking Longhorn ass.  And then jump back  through all those remote hoops to get to the channel I was on..  

If Direct TV is making money by charging people for local channels, I gots no problem with those local channels wanting a piece of the pie. 

After all, I didn't say I was going to create an exact representation of the Observer. I'm just going to steal their content and not pay them. Why should Direct TV get to steal Belo's content and not reimburse them?   

Sybils_Beaver
Sybils_Beaver

These disputes only eff the customer over, Im damn tired of it. in fact I just lost NHL network on Uverse bc of this crap. 

JS
JS

NHL? Uverse?  What are these things of which you speak?

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