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DIRECTV Forced to Remove 24 Tribune Stations
By Swanni 

Washington, D.C. (April 1, 2012) -- DIRECTV this morning was forced to remove 23 Tribune-owned local stations and WGN America after the two companies could not reach a new programming agreement.

Tribune issued a statement late Saturday night saying the stations would no longer be available after midnight and early this morning the stations had been pulled. (DIRECTV posted an on-screen message on the Tribune-owned CW affiliate in the Washington, D.C. area that said the blackout would be "temporary" and that stations are sometimes pulled for a short time in programming disputes.)

“This situation is extremely unfortunate,” Nils Larsen, Tribune Broadcasting's president, said in a statement at the Tribune corporate site. “We don’t want anyone to lose the valuable programming we provide, but we simply cannot get fair compensation from DIRECTV and we cannot allow DIRECTV to continue taking advantage of us.”

As of 4 a.m. ET on Sunday, DIRECTV had not issued a statement responding to the blackout. But the company's Twitter page had acknowledged that the stations had been pulled. (The old agreement between the two sides expired at midnight.)


For DIRECTV, losing Tribune's stations could be a major blow if the blackout lasts more than a few days. Tribune owns Fox and ABC stations in key markets such as New Orleans, Seattle, San Diego and Hartford.

Plus, the broadcaster's WGN carries the Cubs and White Sox baseball games and its CW and My Network affiliates in New York and Philadelphia carry the Mets and Phillies baseball games respectively.  DIRECTV's key target audience is sports fans and they don't want to alienate them right as baseball season begins.

“As baseball season gets underway, DIRECTV’s inflexibility means sports fans in some of our local markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, will be deprived of one of baseball’s most cherished events—Opening Day,” said Larsen.

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The early morning blackout comes after it appeared Saturday afternoon that the two sides had reached a deal. DIRECTV issued a press release stating that it had agreed to Tribune's terms for the 23 local stations and would negotiate a separate deal for WGN America later.

But Tribune soon responded, saying the DIRECTV release was "inaccurate and misleading" and that no deal had been reached.

The old pact between the two companies expired at midnight. By law, a TV provider can not carry a local station or cable channel without its permission.

In addition to WGN America, the Tribune-owned stations include:

Fox affiliates in Sacramento, San Diego, Hartford, Connecticut, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Seattle;

The ABC affiliate in New Orleans and the My Network TV affiliate in Philadelphia.

CW affiliates in Los Angeles, Denver, Washington, Waterbury, Connecticut, Miami, Chicago, Bloomington and Kokomo, Indiana, New Orleans, St. Louis, New York, Salem, Dallas and Houston.

Tribune has set up a web site (TellDIRECTV.com) to offer updates on the impasse. DIRECTV has done the same with DIRECTVPromise.com


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