By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, I am very mad that we lost our Fox station here in Greensboro. My husband couldn’t watch the All-Star Game for the first time in 20 years. We are in a contract with DIRECTV but we want to cancel it and switch to another service before we miss anything else. Can we just cancel the contract because they are not giving us the channels they said they would? Aren’t they in breach of the contract? — Jen, Greensboro, North Carolina.
Jen, DIRECTV on July 2 lost 159 Nexstar-owned network affiliates due to a disagreement over carriage fees. The satcaster was already missing roughly 30 local channels due to separate fee fights with Mission Broadcasting and White Knight. (The blackouts also affect DIRECTV Stream and U-verse.)
As of this morning, there’s no indication of any movement in the negotiations. The companies are maintaining their initial positions. DIRECTV says Nexstar, Mission and White Knight (Nexstar manages the Mission and White Knight stations) want excessive fees to carry its signals while the latter says the former won’t pay a fair market rate.
Can You Cancel DIRECTV’s Two-Year Contract?
Some DIRECTV subscribers might want to cancel the satellite TV service and sign up with a pay TV provider or live streaming service that carries the missing channels. However, many DIRECTV customers have enrolled in two-year plans that include stiff termination fees ($20 a month for every month left in the contract) if you cancel prior to the end of the agreement. (The two-year offers come with attractive benefits such as free premium channels and a two-year price lock. This does not affect DIRECTV Stream which enables you drop the service at any time without a penalty.)
So before you cancel DIRECTV, you better do these two things:
1. Check the status of your two-year agreement.
If you still have time left in your contract, you will have to pay the termination fee. And if you don’t know if you have time left in your two-year deal, call DIRECTV and ask. No matter how angry you may be about the blackout of a favorite channel, you can’t just quit because it’s not available anymore. The satcaster has included language in the agreement that enables them to drop channels, or raise prices, at any time during the two years.
“All offers, programming, promotions, pricing, terms, restrictions & conditions subject to change & may be modified, discontinued, or terminated at any time without notice,” the DIRECTV terms state.
That also means you can’t sue if they charge you for the remaining months if you cancel early. There is not a breach of contract here because DIRECTV is permitted to change its lineup.
Now, if you are still in a contract, but it only has a month or two left, your termination charge would be relatively small and you might want to consider exiting if that missing channel is that important. But before you do, there’s one more thing you need to do.
2. Make sure you have a viable alternative.
If you are considering switching to another service, make sure that service carries the channel you want. Dish, for example, has channels blacked out now because of carriage fights. The live streaming services, such as YouTube TV and Hulu Live, carry local channels in most markets but it may not have that special one in your market. Go to their web sites and make sure they do before you switch. In addition, if there are other channels you can’t do without that are currently on DIRECTV, make sure they are available on any service you are considering switching to. You could get one channel back in your lineup and lose another.
Local channels are also available via a TV antenna so that could be an option as well.
Bottom line: Many consumers say they will cancel their TV service when there’s a blackout of a must-see channel. But it’s sometimes easier said than done. Do your research before making the big decision.
Jen, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann