DirecTV, Hearst Gird for Retrans Battle

33 stations in Boston, Pittsburgh could go dark Jan. 1

Hearst Television is preparing DirecTV subscribers in 28 markets for the worst, informing customers of the satellite TV service over the last few days that if they can’t come to terms on a retransmission agreement before the end of the year, they will lose access to their stations.

Hearst owns and operates about 33 stations in 28 markets across the country, including Boston (ABC affiliate WCVB); Pittsburgh (ABC affiliate WTAE); New Orleans (NBC affiliate WDSU); Baltimore (NBC affiliate WBAL) and Orlando, Fla. (NBC affiliate WESH).

News of the retrans talks was reported earlier by

On its station websites, Hearst said it is currently in negotiations with DirecTV and that customers could lose their broadcast signal if a deal isn’t reached.“Hearst has a long history of successfully concluding carriage agreements with cable companies and other satellite distributors with no disruption of service to subscribers,” the company said on its WBAL website. “While we believe that we and DirecTV can conclude our negotiations before January 1st, so as not to deprive any of our respective viewers and customers of our programming, we want to advise our viewers and customers that the possibility of non-renewal of our current agreement exists.”

DirecTV declined to comment.

Hearst and DirecTV last met at the retrans negotiating table in 2010. Although the broadcaster took a similar tack at the time – it began warning satellite TV customers of the possibility of a blackout about two weeks before its old deal expired – it was able to hammer out an agreement before the Dec. 31  deadline and avoid a service disruption.