Three Forum Communications-owned and ABC-affiliated TV stations in North Dakota -- WDAY in Fargo, WDAZ in Devil's Lake and KBMY in Bismarck -- came off DirecTV on Thursday, June 2, on the eve of the National Basketball Association Finals that night (the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 104-89). The stations' retransmission agreement with the top U.S. satellite-TV provider expired on March 31 and extension agreements expired on June 1, Forum said on affiliated news sites.
AT&T spokesman Mark Giga said in the latest company statement: "We intend to get Forum Communications’ three local stations back into North Dakota customers’ lineups and share their frustration. Forum is prohibiting its signals from reaching these customers’ homes unless they receive a significant increase in their current fees just to let the same families keep watching shows that remain available for free over-the-air and often online at ABC.com or CWTV.com. ABC Sports is also streaming its NBA Finals games live at ABC.com and to fans using the WatchABC app for Windows 10, iPads or Android-enabled tablets. Broadcasters have intentionally blacked out their local communities more than 200 times over the past year, typically attempting to get increased – and often record – fees for conventional “free” broadcast TV. Forum has unfortunately suspended its stations from other North Dakota providers’ customers before, so we appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to get these stations back as soon as possible while attempting to resolve this matter quickly, reasonably, and with the least inconvenience."
WDAY.com posted a series of questions and answers for viewers that said Forum granted DirecTV two extensions after March 31 and first proposed a new renewal agreement in January. It said DirecTV did not start negotiating until May 16. "Unfortunately, DirecTV has been unwilling to come to the table as of this date with a competitive proposal," the WDAY statement said. It also said: "We are advised by the National Association of Broadcasters that in the last two years, more than four out of five service interruptions (84 percent) involved AT&T/DirecTV/Dish. They dropped 193 stations in 2015 and 26 stations so far this year." The stations said: "We deeply regret the inconvenience DirecTV’s action may cause you. We remain committed to working with DirecTV to reach a fair agreement."