Hearst: We’re Trying

Broadcaster says DirecTV retrans negotiations “thwarted” by unrealistic proposals as NFL Playoffs near

As the retransmission consent dispute between Hearst Television and DirecTV closes its third day, the chances are growing dimmer that a quick resolution is near.

About 33 Hearst stations in 26 markets went dark to DirecTV subscribers at midnight on Jan. 1 after the parties could not reach a retransmission consent agreement.

On Tuesday the broadcaster claimed it is making every effort to make its team available for talks, including over the holiday weekend.

“However, we’ve been thwarted by what appears to be a strategy of unrealistic proposals and outright delay by a national distributor that does not seek to serve their subscribers or local communities,” Hearst said on its station websites. “Unfortunately, our viewers are the ones who suffer from DirecTV’s delay campaign. Nonetheless, Hearst Television will continue its good faith efforts to reach a deal that is both fair for our viewers and recognizes the value that our stations have invested into local news and programming. We hope DirecTV will share our sense of urgency in getting our programming back to their subscribers.”

DirecTV officials weren’t immediately available for comment. But in the past the company has said it wants to return the stations to its lineup, but that it is Hearst that is making undue demands.

“We want to get our customers’ usual local broadcast stations back into their lineups and share their frustration," DirecTV parent AT&T said in a statement. "Hearst Television is preventing its local signals from reaching DirecTV customers’ homes in 26 different cities unless Hearst receives a significant increase in fees just to allow those same families to watch shows available for free over-the-air and that the broadcast networks typically make available for free online and through new digital apps. Hearst has suspended its stations briefly from other TV providers’ customers before, so we appreciate our DirecTV customers’ patience as we work to resolve this matter quickly and reasonably.”

While both companies appear to be digging in their heels, that could change as the weekend approaches. That’s when the NFL Playoffs are expected to start, with the Detroit Lions taking on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Game on NBC at 8:15 EST Jan. 7. On Jan. 8, the Miami Dolphins meet the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card matchup at 1:05 p.m. EST on CBS, followed by the other NFC Wild Card contest between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers at 4:40 p.m. EST on Fox. The second AFC Wild Card game between the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans, scheduled for Jan. 7 is unaffected by the blackout – it’s on ESPN.  

Whatever the outcome, the impasse has already lasted longer than DirecTV’s other retrans dispute in the New Year. The satellite company reached an agreement with about 14 Cox Media Group stations on Jan. 1, mere hours after going dark at midnight that same day.