Sunday, September 7, 2014

DirecTV, Raycom agree on a price, dispute ends

Raycom Media and DirecTV reached an agreement over the weekend on the rates the satellite provider will pay to carry the company’s local stations, restoring the signal of WBTV (Channel 3) Sunday to thousands of viewers in the Charlotte area.

Neither side revealed the terms of the agreement, expected to be signed this week.

DirecTV viewers had been without the Charlotte CBS affiliate since Sept. 1 when the satellite provider pulled the plug on Channel 3 because its contract with Raycom had expired. Each side blamed the other in the dispute – Raycom saying that fees for network programming increase every year and DirecTV saying that it was working to keep the cost to its subscribers in check.

Such disputes have become common in recent years as stations try to raise ever more revenue from retransmission fees, or the money charged to cable and satellite services to carry their signal. 

This dispute, coming at the beginning of fall programming and with the resumption of the NFL season – traditionally the most-watched programming on television – brought frustration to viewers and broadcasters. 

One of DirecTV’s biggest competitors, Dish, took advantage of the dispute for market gain. It took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s Charlotte Observer reminding readers that it still carried WBTV and offered same-day installation. About a third of households in the 22-county Charlotte market are believed to be served by satellite services.

“We appreciate our viewer’s patience,” Paul McTear, Raycom’s president, said in a statement Sunday. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank them for their loyalty to their local stations throughout this process.”

Raycom, based in Montgomery, Ala., operates 53 TV stations in 18 states as well as Raycom Sports based in Charlotte. In the Carolinas, Raycom also operates stations in Wilmington, Columbia, Myrtle Beach and Charleston.