Here we go again. Sinclair Broadcast Group has begun to warn DirecTV customers that its 87 stations in 47 markets may go dark on the No. 1 satellite broadcaster after February 28 when their carriage contract expires. “Although DirecTV and Sinclair have been negotiating for quite some time in an effort to reach a new agreement, at this time it does not appear that these efforts will be successful,” Sinclair’s telling viewers in Baltimore. If that’s right, then it could hit Fox especially hard: 24 of Sinclair’s stations are Fox affiliates and another 19 offer Fox-owned MyTV shows. The company also has 12 ABC stations, 16 CW, 11 CBS, 3 NBC, 1 Azteca and 1 Independent affiliate. The arguments will be familiar to anyone who has followed a retransmission consent negotiation: “Given that we spend millions of dollars each year to buy and produce high-quality programming, it is only right and fair that satellite companies compensate us fairly for a portion of our cost, especially since they are reselling our content to their subscribers,” Sinclair says. Talks also involve “other material matters besides the amount we are to be paid.” DirecTV says that the companies are “engaged in productive discussions.” But it adds that Sinclair wants DirecTV to pay “more than twice as much for the same programs that remain available completely free of charge over the air and online.” It also says that Sinclair is making “the same unnecessary threats, posing as warnings, that Sinclair has made to frighten customers of other pay TV providers.” In August Sinclair and Dish went to the wire in a retransmission dispute, but reached a deal before the stations went dark. DirecTV accounts for about 21% of the more than 27M households that Sinclair reaches.
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