All hell will break loose if there’s isn’t an eleventh-hour settlement — as there usually is in similar cases — to Tribune’s retransmission contract dispute with DirecTV. Tribune says that it will yank its TV stations in 16 markets, as well as cable network WGN America, from the No. 1 satellite company if they can’t renew their deal by Sunday. “Despite our best efforts, DirecTV is refusing to offer a fair deal and we remain far apart in negotiations,” Tribune Broadcasting president Nils Larsen says. “As a result of DirecTV’s inflexibility, there’s a strong likelihood that service interruptions will occur.” That would be a big deal: Tribune owns an ABC affiliate in New Orleans, as well as Fox stations in Sacramento; San Diego; Hartford; Indianapolis; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and Seattle. Tribune is also a major owner of CW affiliates. Subscribers would be infuriated to lose the stations’ nework shows and local newscasts — and the programs’ ratings would take a hit. But the loudest cries likely would come from sports fans: Tribune’s stations provide local broadcasts for the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, and the Philadelphia Phillies. Tribune is urging consumers to visit a website to complain. But DirecTV says that Tribune is the one to blame if there’s a blackout. While it has “no problem compensating Tribune fairly,” DirecTV adds that “we have absolutely no intention of denying anyone access to these stations, unless Tribune specifically demands it.”
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