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DirecTV viewers lose Fox shows

Dispute over fees takes KAYU-TV off satellite

A payment dispute between Spokane-based KAYU-TV and national satellite provider DirecTV has left viewers in the area distraught over not getting favorite shows.

The blackout started at midnight New Year’s Eve, shutting off KAYU’s Fox Network programs for about 170,000 households in five TV markets, including Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Yakima.

Like Dish Network, DirecTV pays KAYU’s parent firm, Northwest Broadcasting, based on a contract tied to the number of households that receive the local station’s signal.

Jon Rand, vice president and chief operating officer of Northwest Broadcasting, said the dispute includes four issues, one of which is the amount KAYU wants to be paid by DirecTV. Three issues are nonmonetary, he said.

Viewers have called the KAYU office steadily.

“When I ask how much they’re paying, and explain that we get less than 1 percent of that amount, they understand what we’re trying to do,” Rand said.

KAYU had a 10-year contract with DirecTV that ended Dec. 31.

A press release from DirecTV President Mike White asserted that Northwest Broadcasting is looking to “extort” a “more than 600 percent increase” above the previous fee. Rand said the 600 percent figure is not correct.

Since the negotiations are continuing, neither side has revealed the rates being discussed.

The rate increase being asked of DirecTV reflects a 10-year adjustment for what it considers valuable programming, Rand said. The request also seeks to bring DirecTV closer to the payment Northwest Broadcasting has negotiated in recent years with other satellite and cable providers in its five markets, Rand said.

Customers are likely to feel even more heartburn if some of the popular Fox shows aren’t available, Rand said. Those include “Bones,” “Glee,” “House” and “American Idol,” which starts a new season Jan. 19.

In addition, Fox has rights to some of the NFC National Football League playoffs, which begin this weekend. If the blackout continues, the one bright spot for sports fans is that the Seahawks game versus New Orleans this Saturday will be on NBC, not Fox.

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