The DIRECTV-Hearst fee fight, which has triggered the blackout of 33 Hearst-owned local channels in DIRECTV’s lineup, enters its fourth day today with no sign of progress.
Hearst stations yesterday posted a notice suggesting DIRECTV is purposely trying to extend the dispute, although the broadcaster offered no evidence nor a reason why the satcaster would not want to settle as soon as possible. DIRECTV continued to maintain that Hearst is asking for excessive fees to carry its stations, but it also did not provide any supporting evidence.
As the companies posture in public, it might be helpful to remember two things about what they’ve been saying and how they might influence the timing of a settlement.
1. DIRECTV Did Not ‘Pull the Signals.’
Hearst stations have repeatedly said DIRECTV pulled their signals last Sunday when talks between the companies broke down. This is actually not true. By law, a pay TV provider can not carry a channel without its consent. And because DIRECTV is not meeting Hearst’s fee demands, it no longer has the broadcaster’s permission to carry its signals. Consequently, the correct explanation is that Hearst pulled the signals when DIRECTV rejected its latest fee request.
This is important to remember because the impasse won’t be settled until DIRECTV agrees to what Hearst wants. The satcaster won’t suddenly decide one day to put the channels back on the air.
2. Hearst Should Not Return Their Signals While Talks Continue
DIRECTV has said that Hearst should allow them to continue carrying its signals while negotiations continue. This is ridiculous and the satcaster knows it. If Hearst permitted DIRECTV to carry its stations during the dispute, the broadcaster would have no leverage to force the pay TV provider to agree to equitable terms.
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There would be no subscriber pressure on DIRECTV to settle and, consequently, no pressure on DIRECTV to pay even what other pay TV providers have agreed to pay. The satcaster would really drag its feet then, knowing that there was no urgency to reach a deal.
So whether you’re a Hearst viewer, or simply an interested party, keep these two things in mind as this fee fight continues. Most of the rhetoric from both companies is designed to make each side look like the good guy. But there are no good guys in fee fights, only victims, which are the viewers.
— Phillip Swann