Tribune Broadcasting forced DirecTV to stop carrying local TV stations in 19 markets -- along with its national WGN America cable network -- after the companies failed to reach a deal before the Saturday midnight deadline.
DirecTV, via its official Twitter feed, said Tribune asked that its stations be removed at 12 a.m. Pacific Saturday.
"This situation is extremely unfortunate," Tribune Broadcasting president Nils Larsen said in a statement distributed at 11 p.m. Eastern Saturday. "We don't want anyone to lose the valuable programming we provide, but we simply cannot get fair compensation from DirecTV and we cannot allow DirecTV to continue taking advantage of us."
DirecTV has not previously paid Tribune to rebroadcast its 23 owned or operated TV stations in markets including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Miami.
Tribune said it is asking for an agreement "similar to those that DirecTV already has in place with hundreds of other broadcasters and program providers."
DirecTV accused Tribune of negotiating in bad faith "in every sense of the term."
On Saturday morning, the nation's largest satellite TV operator announced that it had accepted the broadcaster's retrans terms, which DirecTV said had been offered via phone on Thursday afternoon. But Tribune shortly thereafter issued a statement saying it had not agreed to any deal.
"We're extremely perplexed as Tribune management and DirecTV had a handshake deal on Thursday with an agreed-upon rate for their channels," DirecTV said. "We can't help but wonder whether Tribune's ability to negotiate a reasonable retransmission agreement with DirecTV is being undermined by the complexities and competing interests in their lengthy bankruptcy process."
Alluding to Tribune's bankruptcy proceedings, DirecTV said, "Threatening station blackouts to extract an exorbitant fee for all of Tribune's content may provide an improved return for certain banks and hedge funds, but is not in the interest of its viewers and is not a cure for bankruptcy."
Chicago-based Tribune says it owns or operates 23 stations in 19 U.S. markets (DirecTV says the stations serve 16 markets). The dispute with DirecTV involves its national cable network -- WGN America -- and 23 broadcast properties comprising independent stations and Fox, ABC and The CW affiliates in major markets including New York (WPIX-TV), Los Angeles (KTLA-TV), Denver (KWGN-TV), Philadelphia (WPHL-TV) and New Orleans (WGNO-TV).
In a message to subscribers, DirecTV said, "There is no need for you to do anything at this time as these matters are typically resolved in a short amount of time."
Tribune suggested that the dispute could stretch into the coming week. "As baseball season gets underway, DirecTV's inflexibility means sports fans in some of our local markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington will be deprived of one of baseball's most cherished events -- Opening Day," Larsen said.
In Chicago, WGN broadcasts Cubs and White Sox baseball games, including the home openers of both teams. Other Major League Baseball games DirecTV subs stand to miss include those on WPIX in New York (Mets), WPHL in Philadelphia (Phillies) and WDCW in Washington (Nationals). In addition, WGN America televises Cubs and White Sox games nationally.