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Local News

Contract Dispute Prompts DirecTV to Drop KSBY

A rate dispute with DirecTV has caused KSBY Television to be removed from the satellite-television lineup this week, with no compromise in sight.

Citing a failure to reach a new agreement with DirecTV for carrying its station, the local NBC affiliate serving Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties on Channel 6 went off the air just after midnight Dec. 31.

KSBY's owner, Minnesota-based Cordillera Communications, said the dispute affects more than 500,000 DirecTV subscribers across the country.

“Both sides have made considerable compromises to try to come to terms, but fundamental differences remain on several key points including the fair value of our programming,” the station said in a statement. “As the owner and operator of the distribution system, DirecTV maintains ultimate control over the channels it chooses to carry.

"Even though network programming features, by far, the most popular news, sports, and entertainment content to viewers, DirecTV has decided to drop our station as of Jan. 1, 2015.

“We are committed to maintaining negotiations with DirecTV and hope to reach a mutually beneficial agreement soon that minimizes service disruptions to our valued viewers.”

DirecTV spokesman Thomas Tyrer emphasized the satellite provider cannot, by law, “drop” any station, but it must sign an agreement with the station owner giving permission to redistribute programming.

KSBY subscribers can still watch NBC for free over the air with an antenna by turning off the DirecTV receiver and tuning a digital TV to Channel 6.

Most NBC TV series are also available for free online, Tyrer said.

“DirecTV has every intention of seeing that KSBY is returned to our customers as soon as possible,” he said. “Satellite and cable customers now spend $9.3 billion to have ‘free’ over-the-air programs, yet Cordillera Communications is withholding its permission for DirecTV to keep offering the NBC station to any customers living in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and the surrounding communities unless DirecTV obligates all of these same California families to paying nearly six times more just to return what they always had. 

“We believe loyalty should always be rewarded and never abused, and appreciate our customers’ patience since it has a direct impact on what they ultimately spend. We’ve asked Cordillera and KSBY to, at minimum, enable local fans to see Saturday night’s NFC Wild Card game between the Steelers and Ravens but, for now, Cordillera has again refused.

"California Congressional representatives are also paying attention and the House and Senate recently passed legislation to help rein in some of these chronic abuses and end these station shakedowns like KSBY's once and for all.”

KSBY's owners say they’re asking for less than a dime per day of the “significant fees” subscribers pay DirecTV each month.

“By comparison, cable and satellite providers commonly pay ESPN networks more than three times the fees we are seeking per month,” the station said. “The broadcast business model is evolving and program costs are increasing at every turn.

"From major sports rights and talent fees paid to popular actors and news personalities to the costs associated with providing extensive local news, weather and sports plus highly-rated syndicated programming broadcasters face greater costs than ever before.”

“Having our station go dark on DirecTV is something we had hoped to avoid. As programmers, our most important relationships are with our viewers and distributors. We are disappointed that, despite our best efforts, we have been unable to come to terms with DirecTV, and they have elected not to continue our long-standing relationship.

"We regret the interruption in service that DirecTV customers who rely on us for quality news and entertainment programming are encountering. We will continue to negotiate to limit the length of the disruption.”

Locals were affected by a similar rate dispute in October 2013 between KEYT, the local ABC affiliate, and DirecTV. Those negotiations dragged on more than two weeks.

For the latest on the dispute, subscribers can visit DirecTVPromise.com.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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