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Antennas sprout in blackout

Sat., Jan. 22, 2011

Sales spike as dispute keeps Fox programs off DirecTV

A three-week blackout that’s kept some Eastern Washington and North Idaho TV viewers from watching Fox Network shows has sent many of them to local stores to snap up indoor or outdoor antennas.

Area retailers say the surge they’re seeing in retail antenna sales is clearly due to the blackout of KAYU’s Fox broadcasts over the DirecTV satellite service.

The blackout began Jan. 1 and stems from a dispute over how much DirecTV will pay to Northwest Broadcasting Inc., the company that operates KAYU-TV in Spokane.

Northwest Broadcasting says the new rate should reflect current market values, while DirecTV insists the increase asked by KAYU is exorbitant.

“We’re selling about 10 antennas a day,” said Casey Randolf, a sales associate for the NorthTown Mall Radio Shack.

Jason Simonetti, an associate at the Post Falls Radio Shack, said the store sold out its antennas last Friday, two days ahead of the Seahawks playoff game carried by Fox. This weekend’s NFC championship game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers also will be carried on Fox.

Pat Williams, department lead for the East Sprague Kmart store in Spokane Valley, said the store sold out all converter boxes and antennas both last week and this week.

Local electronics stores also are handling questions from DirecTV customers on how to connect an antenna to a TV. Randolf said the basic answer is: Find the antenna-in connection on the back of the TV, then connect the antenna there. Next, use the remote to direct the TV to display the antenna signal, instead of the satellite feed.

Depending on the distance a house is located from KAYU’s broadcast tower or a translator, some viewers may need an external antenna to get the signal, said Randolf.

A Friday press release from Northwest Broadcasting said the company made another offer to DirecTV, but was rebuffed.

In reply, Dan Hartman, senior vice president of programming acquisitions for DirecTV, said the best solution is for the two sides to find an arbitrator to resolve the differences.

That would finally “end consumer disruption” and give viewers their programs back, he said.

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