After a series of delays, false starts and one heated complaint to the Federal Communications Commission, DirecTV and Tribune Co. have reached a five-year retransmission consent agreement covering 23 broadcast TV stations in 19 markets across the country.
According to DirecTV, Tribune restored all of its local signals and cable network WGN America to the satellite giant's customers at approximately 9 p.m. ET.
The stations were set to go dark on DirecTV on March 31 and as early as March 30, DirecTV believed it had a handshake agreement to continue to air the stations. That hope was dashed by Tribune, which denied reaching any kind of agreement at the time with the satellite giant, and the stations went dark to about 5 million DirecTV customers in major markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago on March 31.
On April 2, DirecTV filed a complaint with the FCC claiming Tribune did not negotiate in good faith, adding that it had reached a deal with top management before the March 31 deadline, only to be rebuffed by Tribune's creditors.
That all appears to be water under the bridge, as both sides confirmed late Wednesday that a long-term deal has been reached. The stations, many of which broadcast Major League Baseball games, will be available to DirecTV subscribers in time for opening day on April 5.
"We are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement with DirecTV and to return our valuable news, entertainment and sports programming to DirecTV subscribers," Tribune Broadcasting president Nils Larsen said in a statement. "On behalf of Tribune Broadcasting, I want to thank viewers across all of our markets for their support, understanding and patience during the negotiating process."
Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, DirecTV said in its press release that the deal is for five years.
"We're pleased that Tribune and their creditors now recognize that all DirecTV wanted from day one was to pay fair market rates for their channels," said executive vice president of content, strategy and development Derek Chang in a statement. "It's unfortunate that Tribune was willing to hold our customers hostage in an attempt to extract excessive rates, but in the end we reached a fair deal at market rates similar to what we originally agreed to on March 29. On behalf of our customers, we are very happy to close the deal and put this behind us."
But DirecTV seems to want to keep its call for retrans reform alive, adding at the end of its statement: "Five million American homes blacked out from their local broadcaster cries out for an examination in Washington, D.C., of the decades-old telecom law that encourages these impasses."