Without deal, Bangor’s WABI leaving DirecTV at midnight

Posted June 04, 2012, at 6:37 p.m.
Last modified June 05, 2012, at 5:20 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Due to an expired contract and lack of satisfactory progress in negotiating a new one, DirecTV satellite subscribers will not be able to view Bangor television stations WABI (Channel 5) and CW network affiliate WABI-DT2 after midnight Monday.

That is unless late negotiations produce a compromise, but WABI General Manager Mike Young isn’t optimistic that will happen.

“The short answer is no, I’m not,” said Young, who compared the struggle to David vs. Goliath. “Whenever one enters into a negotiation, there’s always a certain amount of give and take. We’ve been very good about giving and they’ve been very good about taking.”

Young put out a press release Monday afternoon stating that the Community Broadcasting Service — the licensee for both stations — had been unable to reach a mutually acceptable agreement after several weeks of discussions and negotiations.

“As a result, DirecTV will remove our stations from the local channel lineup at midnight tonight,” the release stated.

DirecTV spokesman Tom Tyrer said it is WABI, not DirecTV, which is removing the stations.

“The local stations are the ones which control their signals. They have to choose to be taken down,” Tyrer said. “We’ve actually gone to WABI and said ‘Why don’t we leave these stations up while we continue these negotiations?’, but they have refused.”

Young said that’s not true.

“That’s a falsehood. We did have that conversation earlier on and that’s why we did this extension [of a few days] to try and stimulate them to arrive at a mutually acceptable deal, but after several weeks, they were immovable on certain terms,” Young said.

DirecTV signed its first deal — for four years — with WABI in June 2008.

“We expect Diversified Communications [Community Broadcasting Service] to honor its obligations to serve the public interest and allow the stations to remain on as we continue to discuss our contract extension,” stated a Monday DirecTV release from Tyrer. “We have absolutely no intention of denying anyone access to these three stations. We have always compensated Diversified Communications fairly and have no problem continuing to do so.

“Unfortunately, these types of disputes have become more frequent as stations have become far more aggressive in their demands for excessive fees.”

Young was asked how this situation compared to contract negotiations with rival satellite TV provider Dish Network.

“I don’t remember specifically, but I do remember we never got to the point where we were talking about removing our stations from their system,” Young said. “I’m hopeful, but I don’t have any means for comparison.”

“What’s clear to me is this: We’ve been able to reach mutually acceptable terms with all other carriers and our mission through all of this was trying to negotiate a deal where it empowers us to continue to be the kind of TV station that’s earned the trust and respect of viewers and advertisers, because ultimately that’s who we agree to serve.”

Both DirecTV and Young said they regret that the disagreement has gone public.

“It’s wrong to unnecessarily antagonize customers who simply want to relax in front of their televisions,” read the DirecTV release. “We both need to take responsibility for earning their satisfaction and resolve this dispute without involving our customers.”

DirecTV was founded in 1990 and launched in 1994. It has grown to become an international corporation which provides, according to its corporate profile, digital TV service to 19.97 million customers in the United States and 12.75 million customers in Latin America. DirecTV reported revenues of $7.05 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012.

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