Statement Regarding DirecTV and AT&T U-verse
It appears that on December 1, 2016 DirecTV and AT&T U-verse will discontinue carriage of WRGT-TV/45.
The retransmission agreement with DirecTV and AT&T U-verse to carry the Station expired earlier in 2016 and the Station has provided them several extensions. The current extension expires November 30, 2016 and the Station does not expect that the Station will be able to reach agreements with DirecTV and AT&T U-verse that allows for further carriage of these stations.
The Station regrets the inconvenience this will cause to DirecTV’s and AT&T U-verse’s subscribers who want to continue to watch the extremely popular programming that airs on these stations. The Station wishes to remind these subscribers that numerous other means exist for receiving our stations, including, Dish Network and free over-the air.
The Station suggests that you contact DirecTV by calling them at 1-800-531-5000 and/or ATT U-Verse at 1-800-288-2020, or through their website, Facebook (facebook.com/directv or facebook.com/uverse/) or on Twitter (twitter.com/DIRECTV or twitter.com/Uverse) and let them know you want them to continue to carry these local stations.
Answers to some of the questions you may have about this matter are set forth below. The Station appreciates your understanding and patience with regard to this matter. Thank you.
Q: What is retransmission consent?
A: Retransmission consent is a process created by federal law pursuant to which cable and satellite companies negotiate with the owners of television stations for the right to carry those stations on their systems.
Q: Can television stations require cable or satellite companies to carry them?
A: Yes, they can by making something referred to as a must-carry election, which would then require carriage for a three-year period.
Q: Why didn't these stations elect must-carry for its stations?
A: These stations chose not to elect must-carry in order to have the right to negotiate with the cable and satellite system to receive certain things, such as compensation and channel position, which it would not receive by making a must-carry election. As a result of the stations’ retransmission consent election, the relationship between the stations and DirecTV and/or AT&T U-verse is essentially the same as the typical commercial relationship that exists between any wholesaler attempting to sell its product to a retailer so that the retailer can then sell the product to consumers in its market.
Q: Why should DirecTV and AT&T U-verse have to pay to carry a television station?
A: Local TV stations pay millions of dollars each year to buy high-quality programming and to produce important informational programs, such as the local news. It is just standard business practice that companies like DirecTV and AT&T U-verse should pay for the right to resell programming to their subscribers.
Q: But aren't television stations available for free over-the-air?
A: Local TV stations are available over-the-air at no cost with the use of an antenna. However, this doesn't mean that cable companies have the right to resell our signals without properly compensating us. It is no different from the fact that local radio stations are free over-the-air, but a satellite radio company like SiriusXM Radio has no right simply to carry local stations and charge subscribers for it.
Q: Don't television stations benefit from carriage on cable systems in the form of larger audiences and increased advertising revenues?
A: All channels benefit from being carried on a cable or satellite system; local TV stations as well as cable networks which are also advertising supported. The Station is simply asking to be treated fairly, based on the popularity of our programming, in the amount the Station is compensated.
Q: Doesn’t the stations make its money through advertising sales? So why also charge for retransmission consent?
A: It is true that our primary source of revenues comes from advertising sales. However, the Station is entitled to be compensated fairly when another company uses our content and re-sells it to the public.
Q: Is this just a dispute about money?
A: Although the Station does not believe it is productive to negotiate its private business relationships in the public, the inability to reach agreement with DirecTV and AT&T U-verse is about more than just money.
Q: Is it fair to characterize the stations as "pulling its signal" from DirecTV and AT&T U-verse?
A: If, as the Station expects, there is no agreement on December 1, 2016, the Station would not characterize this as the stations "pulling its signal" or DirecTV and AT&T U-verse "refusing to carry" the stations. This is simply the case of a buyer and seller being unable to agree on price, something that occurs every day in both commercial and consumer transactions.
Q: What is the best way for the public to influence this matter?
A: The Station believes that DirecTV’s and AT&T U-verse’s subscribers should simply let DirecTV and AT&T U-verse know that they will no longer subscribe to DirecTV and AT&T U-verse if they do not carry the stations that they want. The Station also believes it would be appropriate for DirecTV’s and AT&T U-verse’s subscribers to demand that DirecTV and AT&T U-verse reduce their bills if they no longer carry these stations. You can contact DirecTV by calling them at 1-800-531-5000 and/or ATT U-Verse at 1-800-288-2020, or through their website, Facebook (facebook.com/directv or facebook.com/uverse/) or on Twitter (twitter.com/DIRECTV or twitter.com/Uverse) and let them know you want them to continue to carry these local stations.
Q: How long is this dispute likely to last?
A: It is impossible to answer this question accurately, although it is certainly possible that DirecTV and AT&T U-verse will never carry these stations in the future.
Q: Won't DirecTV and AT&T U-verse just bring in another station from another market with the same programming?
A: Contracts, the law and FCC regulations severely restrict DirecTV’s and AT&T U-verse’s ability to do this. Local TV station programming contracts generally provide for market exclusivity (including network primetime and sports programming). Additionally, programming these stations produce, such as local news, wouldn't be available from another, out-of-market station.
Q: Doesn't this punish the consumer?
A: Consumers have other means for obtaining these stations, such as local cable company, Dish Network, or over-the-air, and so, while the Station recognizes and apologizes for the inconvenience associated with switching providers, no significant detriment to the consumer will result from DirecTV’s and AT&T U-verse’s failure to carry these stations.
Q: Isn’t this just about greed?
A: No. It’s about a local business just working to operate its business profitably. Given that the Station spends millions of dollars each year to buy and produce high-quality programming, it is only right and fair that DirecTV and AT&T U-verse compensate us fairly for a portion of our cost, especially since they are re-selling our content to their subscribers. In addition, the inability to reach agreement with DirecTV and AT&T U-verse is related to other material matters besides the amount the Station is to be paid.
Q: Won’t this cost get passed on to the consumer?
A: That is a question for DirecTV and AT&T U-verse to answer. They may pass these costs on to their subscribers or they could choose just to reduce the profits they make. Alternatively, they could negotiate to reduce the fees they pay for programming which is far less popular than the programming provided by these stations and for which, the Station believes they pay disproportionately high prices as compared to the amount being requested by these stations.