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Play Ball: Tribune, DirecTV Sign New Carriage Deal

Pact restores games access to more than 5 million viewers
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Just in time for baseball season, Tribune Broadcasting and DirecTV signed a new carriage agreement covering Tribune's 23 TV stations in 19 markets and the national cable network WGN America.

The new deal was announced Wednesday evening, ending a four-day blackout. It restores to more than 5 million DirecTV viewers access to baseball broadcasts of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox teams on WGN-TV in Chicago and WGN America; the New York Mets on WPIX-TV in New York; the Philadelphia Phillies on WPHL-TV in Philadelphia; and the Washington Nationals on WDCW-TV in Washington, D.C.

Terms were not disclosed, but Tribune, which hadn't asked DirecTV for compensation in more than a decade, said in previous statements that it was asking for a fee equal to less than a penny per subscriber.

Leading up to the deal, the parties engaged in the usual exchange of heated rhetoric, with DirecTV filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission accusing Tribune of negotiating in "bad faith."

Still seemingly bitter over the fight and insisting the parties had a deal before the previous contract ended March 31, DirecTV issued the following statement from Derek Chang, executive vp of content, strategy and development: "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. 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."

DirecTV also used the opportunity to push for retransmission reform in Washington, D.C., saying that the blackout "cries out for an examination in Washington, D.C., of the decades-old telecom law that encourages these impasses."

The FCC has an open proceeding that proposes minor changes to retransmission reform, but it stops short of preventing blackouts.