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KAYU blacked out on DirecTV over fee dispute

TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 2012

A contract fight has unplugged KAYU-TV’s programs from DirecTV subscribers in the Spokane and North Idaho region.

A blackout – which began Aug. 13 – leaves DirecTV customers in need of an antenna to watch FOX 28 shows.

The dispute is a rerun of what happened more than 19 months ago when DirecTV accused Northwest Broadcasting Inc. of demanding an exorbitant fee increase for KAYU FOX 28 programming

DirecTV accuses Northwest Broadcasting of trying to “extort a 300 percent increase in fees which we refuse to accept as we must keep our customers’ monthly bills as low as possible.”

Northwest Broadcasting is the parent company of KAYU and stations in Yakima, Medford, Ore., Pendleton, Ore., and the Tri-Cities. It also operates a TV station in Binghamton, N.Y.

Jon Rand, chief operating officer for Northwest Broadcasting, said the two sides had agreed on a specific fee increase. The deal fell apart, however, when DirecTV inserted a clause requiring Northwest Broadcasting to give DirecTV a rate equal to any other low rate the company has recently signed with another satellite or cable provider, Rand said.

“If we agreed to 3 cents per subscriber with DirecTV, then if we had in the past 20 months cut a deal with their direct competition for less than 3 cents, we’d have to give DirecTV the lower rate,” Rand said.

Robert Mercer, a spokesman for California-based DirecTV, said the two sides are not currently negotiating. “Northwest Broadcasting has told us they have ended the business relationship. We’ve invited them to continue our discussions so we can get this resolved but have not heard back from them,” Mercer said.

A prolonged blackout at the end of 2010 ended when KAYU agreed to resume the signal in time for the 2011 Super Bowl.

Rand said that as the latest contract problems unfold, Northwest Broadcasting has negotiated fee deals with 13 different providers, including Comcast and Time Warner, the two largest subscription-TV providers in the country.

The online DirecTV statement added that it expected the disruption for KAYU programs to end before the new fall lineup of shows begins in mid-September.

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