Happy New Year! Now, grab the rabbit ears.
That could be the first thing DirecTV subscribers in some 26 DMAs may need to do on Sunday, should they wish to continue watching local broadcast television stations owned by Hearst Television.
DirecTV and Hearst are still negotiating a renewal of retransmission consent agreements for the carriage of all Hearst stations on the DBS provider.
If there’s no deal by the time the clock strikes Midnight on New Year’s Eve, 31 full-power TV stations — and their digital multicast partners — could go dark on DirecTV.
Among the stations that could lose DirecTV coverage are ABC affiliate WTAE-4 in Pittsburgh; NBC affiliate KCRA-3 in Sacramento; NBC WESH-2 and The CW WKCF-18 in Orlando; WPBF-25 in West Palm Beach; and ABC WCVB-5 in Boston — arguably its biggest TV station.
Loss of coverage of WCVB couldn’t come at a worse time, as the Boston market braces for the shift of NBC programming from WHDH-7 to the new WBTS-LD.
In a statement appearing on the websites of its TV stations, Hearst explains that satellite distributors are prohibited by law from carrying broadcasters’ signals without their consent.
The removal of a TV station’s signal from the DirecTV system “will only result if negotiations between representatives of Hearst Television and DirecTV are unsuccessful in reaching a conclusion before January 1, 2017.”
Hearst is confident a deal can be reached by the Ball Drop from Times Square on Saturday night. It noted that the company “has a long history of successfully concluding carriage agreements with cable companies and other satellite distributors with no disruption of service to subscribers.”
Hearst added, “While we believe that we and DirecTV can conclude our negotiations before Jan. 1, so as not to deprive any of our respective viewers and customers of our programming, we want to advise our viewers and customers that the possibility of non-renewal of our current agreement exists.”
Neither AT&T nor DirecTV have publicly commented on the ongoing negotiation with Hearst.