DirecTV Loses Sunbeam Stations In Miami, Boston In Retrans Fight


DirecTV customers in Miami could miss this weekend's NFL playoff coverage on Fox, after a retransmission-consent dispute with Sunbeam Television resulted in the station owner's pulling Fox affiliate WSVN from the satellite operator at midnight Friday.

The retrans fight -- which also resulted in Sunbeam yanking Boston's WHDH (NBC) and WLVI (CW) stations off DirecTV -- comes after Sunbeam asked for a 300% increase in retrans fees, according to DirecTV.

"There is always one outlier, like Sunbeam, who has no problem committing an unthinkable abuse of the public trust in an effort to shake down an excessive financial arrangement for themselves," Derek Chang, DirecTV's executive vice president of programming, said in a statement Saturday. "We have no problem compensating Sunbeam fairly, but we have to take a stand against runaway greed and a shameless attempt to extort a more than 300% percent fee increase that our customers risk having to absorb."

WSVN general manager Robert Leider said DirecTV's offer was below fair-market value, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. DirecTV has about 270,000 subscribers who are affected in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

DirecTV claimed it made repeated requests to extend its agreement to carry the three Sunbeam stations while negotiations continue. "Not only did Sunbeam flat-out refuse this request, they sent a demand letter today dictating that the channels be removed immediately from DirecTV," the operator said. "This decision rests solely on the shoulders of Sunbeam executives, so customers should call Sunbeam's corporate offices and insist the channels be restored so customers aren't placed in the middle while both sides work toward a deal to enable everyone to move on."

Fox is airing both NFC playoff games this weekend, with Saturday's match between the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints and Sunday's contest pitting the New York Giants against the Green Bay Packers.

DirecTV said it will "bring the Sunbeam matter to the attention of both the Federal Communications Commission and Congressional representatives from Sunbeam districts."

The satellite operator said that over the past 12 months, DirecTV has achieved "fair and equitable agreements" with more than 70 local station owners representing hundreds of different TV channels, including stations in Boston and Miami, without any programming disruptions. More than 20 of those agreements came within the past several weeks, according to DirecTV.

In 2012, DirecTV is raising rates an average of 4%, effective Feb. 9, while it claims that its programming costs will climb about 10%.