DIRECTV: KATC, parent co. attempting ‘shakedown’

by Walter Pierce

DIRECTV is firing back at KATC and its parent company, saying the latter is demanding a 600 percent increase in the retransmission fee DIRECTV pays to Cordillera Communications.

DIRECTV is firing back at KATC and its parent company, saying the latter is demanding a 600 percent increase in the retransmission fee DIRECTV pays to Cordillera Communications and that it is in effect Cordillera’s choice to withhold the local ABC affiliate’s programming from the satellite television service.

DIRECTV spokesman Thomas Tyrer, in an email to The IND, also points out that this isn’t Cordillera’s first brush with demanding increased retransmission fees and voluntarily withholding its programming from a television provider. Several of the companie’s stations in the Corpus Christi, Texas, area were off the Time Warner Cable system for five months in 2011 and 2012 due to a similar dispute.

Tyrer forwarded an “official statement” on behalf of DIRECTV:

DIRECTV has every intention of seeing that KATC is returned to our Lafayette customers as soon as possible. Satellite and cable customers now spend $9.3 billion to have “free” over-the-air programs, yet Cordillera Communications is withholding its permission for DIRECTV to keep offering the ABC station to any customers living in Lafayette and the surrounding communities unless DIRECTV obligates all of these same Louisiana families to paying nearly six times more just to get the same station they always had.

We believe loyalty should always be rewarded and never abused, and appreciate our customers’ patience since it has a direct impact on what they ultimately spend. Louisiana’s Congressional representatives are also paying attention and the House and Senate recently passed legislation to help rein in some of these chronic abuses and end these station shakedowns like KATC’s once and for all. We join members of Congress and the rest of our Lafayette customers in demanding KATC return to their homes now.

In a follow-up with KATC General Manager Andrew Shenkan, we tried to confirm Tyrer’s claim that Cordillera is seeking a six-fold hike in the retransmission fee. Instead, we got a statement via email that has already appeared on KATC’s site as it appeals to viewers to apply pressure on DIRECTV to resolve the issue:

DirecTV may claim that the station is seeking an unreasonable fee increase as a means to garner support in this dispute. While you think about DirecTV’s argument, please consider these additional facts. We are seeking less than a dime per day of the significant fees that subscribers pay DirecTV each month. Yes, less than a dime per day for the most popular channels on the DirecTV system. By comparison, cable and satellite providers commonly pay ESPN networks more than three times the fees we are seeking per month. The broadcast business model is evolving and program costs are increasing at every turn. From major sports rights and talent fees paid to popular actors and news personalities to the costs associated with providing extensive local news, weather, and sports plus highly-rated syndicated programming – broadcasters face greater costs than ever before. In turn, DirecTV takes our channel and charges subscribers a markup – helping to meet Wall Street demands and achieve billions in profit each year. We are simply asking for fair value for the outstanding programming that we provide – and you count on.

Something has to give. The next Neilson ratings month is February. Will Cordillera risk not having thousands of market-leading KATC's DIRECTV viewers tuning in as it vies for eyeballs and the advertising revenue tied to it?

And for DIRECTV viewers jonesing for ABC programming, the company says they can simply turn off their DIRECTV receiver and use the tuner on their digital TV sets to tune into KATC.

Read more on the fight here. And as they say, stay tuned.