On Thursday, KCRG-TV9 “went dark” on DirecTV after the two were unable to reach a new carriage agreement.
The station and DirecTV have been in negotiations for several weeks over DirecTV’s retransmission of KCRG-TV9’s programming, according to officials of The Gazette Company, which owns KCRG-TV9.
The station’s agreement with the satellite service provider expired at midnight Dec. 31, and they agreed to two extensions — until noon Jan. 14 and again until 2 p.m. on Jan. 15 — to prevent disruptions while the companies continued negotiations.
Distributors of broadcast stations, such as DirecTV, pay broadcasters for the right to carry the signal and then resell the signals to their subscribers.
At the center of the disagreement is the price DirecTV has offered to pay to redistribute KCRG-TV9’s signal and programming.
The Gazette Company officials do not believe the station is being offered market pricing, adding that DirecTV “pays other, considerably less popular program providers almost four times the rate the station is asking.”
“In the 63 year history of our television station, we have now ‘gone dark’ on two occasions with third-party providers,” said Chris Edwards, vice president of marketing for The Gazette Company.
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Edwards said DirecTV has had several other broadcast channels go dark already in 2015 in other markets around the country.
“KCRG-TV9 successfully reached agreement with 51 other third-party providers in 2014 alone, with no interruption in Eastern Iowa,” he said. “In addition to needing to make sure we are getting a fair market rate for the 500-plus local employees of our company, we also owe it to all of the other partner providers who understand and have agreed to what the fair market rate is for our station.”
DirecTV countered, saying that, by law, KCRG-TV9 alone can determine whether it’s available to any cable or satellite customer.
“KCRG-TV9 blacked out DISH Network families before, and is now demanding everyone pay nearly eight times more just to have KCRG-TV9 back in their DirecTV lineup,” the company said in a statement sent to The Gazette on Friday.
“Satellite and cable customers spend $9.3 billion to still have ‘free’ over-the-air programs, yet KCRG-TV9 — a sister company to the Cedar Rapids Gazette newspaper — is suspending important local news and ABC prime-time programs to drive up the price everyone pays just to keep what they’ve always had.”
Both parties said they plan to continue negotiations to reach an agreement.