The NFL’s 100th season kicked off Thursday night with a game between two storied franchises, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.
But DirecTV subscribers in the Yakima Valley couldn’t watch due to an ongoing dispute over retransmission fees that DirecTV pays to carry NBC-affiliated station KNDO 23.
A similar conflict affects the Fox affiliate on Channel 11 of DirecTV.
KNDO is owned by Spokane-based Cowles Co. as part of the KHQ Television Group. The Fox affiliate is owned by Northwest Broadcasting.
In a statement posted on the KNDO 23 website Wednesday, station officials say DirecTV removed KHQ Inc., NBC Right Now and Cowles Montana Media from its service after those stations’ retransmission agreement with DirecTV expired June 30. A blackout went into effect soon after.
Negotiations are ongoing and there’s no timeline for restored service, the statement said.
“To date, we have completed deals with every other satellite and cable TV provider with which we do business,” it said. “We highly regret the inconvenience this will cause to DirecTV subscribers who want to continue watching local news, weather and sports on this station, along with our popular entertainment programming, including NFL football.”
And in a July 24 statement, Brian W. Brady, president/CEO of Northwest Broadcasting, said DirecTV — “with little notice” — removed all Northwest Broadcasting’s stations from the DirecTV lineup on Feb. 22.
“DirecTV customers should understand that DirecTV’s actions are not about money it pays to Northwest. Rather, after a year of negotiating, DirecTV insisted on changing a provision in our agreement which had long been settled, and has insisted on dictating the terms on how Northwest can run its business and how it can grow in the future,” Brady said.
“Northwest cannot and will not let a third party, even DirecTV, tell us what we can and cannot do.”
A statement on behalf of DirecTV’s parent company, AT&T, characterized Northwest Broadcasting as a “serial blackout artist” and said the company would continue to push for lower fees.
Satellite and cable TV providers pay the owners of local television stations retransmission fees for the rights to carry or “retransmit” their signals.
Revenue from retransmission fees is growing — and becoming more important as television ad spending has been flat for the last few years. According to a recent report by market research group Kagan, a group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, retransmission fees average $2.93 per subscriber per month for affiliates of the major broadcast networks.
Kagan noted in a retransmission fee forecast published in Broadcast Investor, an e-newsletter from Kagan, that revenue from retransmission fees is expected to reach $11.72 billion this year. That’s an
11 percent increase from 2018.
The Seattle Seahawks’ season opener Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals was carried by CBS. But Fox is broadcasting 10 of Seattle’s remaining games, including Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Two Seattle games will be shown on NBC.
DirecTV customers can still watch the local NBC and Fox feeds by getting a local channel connector from the provider or buying an over-the-air antenna. The connector allows for DVR functions, but the antenna does not. Fans can also livestream the games.
The stations are still available on Spectrum cable and the Dish Network.
• Sports Editor Jerrel Swenning contributed to this report.