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Contract dispute leaves DirecTV customers without two Central Coast stations

A breakdown in contract negotiations has left DirecTV customers on the Central Coast without their local ABC and Fox television channels, KEYT and KKFX.
A breakdown in contract negotiations has left DirecTV customers on the Central Coast without their local ABC and Fox television channels, KEYT and KKFX.

As of Thursday afternoon, DirecTV no longer carries KEYT-TV, an ABC affiliate, and KKFX-TV, a Fox affiliate, in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, according to Mark Danielson, the stations’ general manager.

“We began discussing renewing our agreement with DirecTV on Nov. 15,” Danielson said. “For months we negotiated with DirecTV, and over that time it became apparent that DirecTV refuses to pay a fair value for our programming.”

St. Joseph, Missouri-based News-Press & Gazette Company, parent of KEYT and KKFX, owns stations in nine other markets across the country that also are affected by the breakdown in negotiations with DirecTV, Danielson said.

KEYT and KKFX provide the highest-rated channels on DirecTV’s local system, according to Danielson.

“We offer the top-rated local news relevant to DirecTV’s local subscribers,” Danielson said. “We also are the primary source for ABC and Fox premium network programming. Yet, despite all of that, DirecTV refuses to pay a fee representing a small percentage of what it pays for channels like ESPN, which has a fraction of our ratings.”

Programming from the two stations will remain available for viewers with over-the-air antennas, Danielson said, adding that customers of other pay-TV providers are not affected.

DirecTV could not be reached for comment Thursday night, but the company’s website includes information outlining its position on negotiations with local affiliates:

“DirecTV pays programmers fees to carry their networks or local stations. When contracts come to an end, we negotiate new agreements, and the vast majority of the time you never hear about them.

“But sometimes, programmers demand an increase that’s two, three, and even 10 times more what they’ve ever received before — and all for the exact same channels.

“We believe it’s our responsibility to take a stand and protect you from these excessive price increases so you don’t see an unnecessary increase to your family’s monthly bill.”

Neither News-Press & Gazette nor DirecTV provided details about the contract negotiations or how far apart the two sides are on the economic issues.

News-Press & Gazette said on its website that it does not know when its stations will return to DirecTV.

Noozhawk is a Santa Barbara-based news website. Executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com.

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