The NFL regular season kicks off tonight with a marquee matchup of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks hosting the Green Bay Packers on NBC. But fans in many markets might need to make alternate plans. A carriage dispute between DirecTV and Raycom Media left the latter’s channels dark on the satcaster as of August 31-- and Raycom has 15-plus NBC affiliates, meaning DirecTV subscribers in those small- to –midsize markets won’t be ready for some football. And most of Raycom’s NBC stations are in the pigskin-mad South. The picture isn’t any brighter for DirecTV subs in markets where Raycom’s Fox and CBS affils are slated to air national and regional NFL games on Sunday. The company has about a dozen affiliates for each of those networks.
Turn back the clock one year, and the DirecTV-Raycom dispute recalls last year’s carriage flap between CBS and Time Warner Cable. The network was blacked out on the cable system for a month -- until a deal was struck mere days before the start of the NFL regular season. CBS ended up getting the big retransmission fee increase it wanted, but TWC was able to retain most if not all of the digital rights it was offered. Now the question is, can DirecTV and Raycom huddle up and make a deal in time for the NFL’s first Sunday?