Retrans Update: Hearst TV Warns Viewers of Possible DirecTV Fallout

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Hearst's 29 TV stations
issued notices Saturday to viewers that they could potentially lose signals if
the TV group is
not able to reach a retrans
agreement with DirecTV.

The deal expires Dec. 31 and
there was no renewal agreement at press time, according to a Hearst spokesman,
who
called the notices a
courtesy to viewers in case a deal can't be reached.

He declined to characterize
the negotiations, but the options are that a deal will be struck, no deal but an

extension granted, as
happens frequently though not as frequently enough for the FCC and Congress, or
the signals
could go dark on
DirecTV.

All 29 Hearst stations are
impacted. They are predominately CBS and ABC affiliates with CW duopolies in
some markets. The
largest markets that coud be impacted:
Boston (Nielsen DMA No. 7), Tampa (No. 14), Orlando (No. 19) and Sacramento
(No. 20).

Time Warner Cable and
Sinclair, which were the players in a high-profile retrans battle at the end of
last year, are
back in the spotlight with
the expiration their year-extension on a deal, with no new deal in
hand. 
Last week, Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau chief Bill Lake said the commission would issue a proposed rulemaking on retransmission-consent rule changes early next
year,
and at the same time appeared to
warn current retrans negotiators that it would be monitoring them for the impact
of impasses on consumers. 

"We will pay close attention
to...future developments in the marketplace," he said. "Are the disruptions of
the last
year an anomaly -perhaps
just a sign of friction as prices move to a new level? Or will we see a
continuing pattern
of disputes that threaten
viewers' access to programming?"

Dish Network faces possible loss of ABC affiliates in Oregon as contracts to retransmit stations owned by Chambers Communications Corp. expire on Wednesday, Dec. 15, according to reports in various outlets, including the Mail Tribune in southern Oregon.

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