June 20, 2018
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CBS, CW taken off local DirecTV lineup as impasse with WABI-TV goes on

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — As of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, network programming from CBS and the CW was turned off for DirecTV subscribers in Bangor’s designated market area, or DMA.

“After ignoring requests not to disrupt customers’ programming, Diversified Communications last night took away its three local broadcast stations from DirecTV customers in an attempt to force DirecTV to accept onerous terms on a new programming contract,” DirecTV said in a press release Tuesday morning, referring to the Portland-based company that owns the CBS network affiliate in Bangor, WABI-TV, the Bangor CW affiliate, WABI-DT2, and the Gainesville, Fla., ABC affiliate, WCJB. “Diversified is demanding more than 300 percent what they currently receive, well beyond the same payments for any local broadcast stations of similar popularity and reach.”

Mike Young, general manager of Community Broadcasting System, the licensee for both Bangor stations, bristled at that description of what Community is asking for as compensation for carrying WABI-TV and WABI-DT2.

“They’re reportedly saying we’re asking for gigantic payments in terms of compensation,” Young said. “The fact is, all the points of the contract that needed to be addressed have been and we have acquiesced on virtually everything they asked us to, including the amount of money we’re asking them to pay us on a per-subscriber basis, so the one remaining consideration is compensation to the station.”

In a statement Tuesday, Dan Hartman, DirecTV’s senior vice president of programming acquisitions, said “we have no problem compensating Diversified Communications fairly, but their unwarranted demand for more than 300 percent above what they are receiving now threatens to increase our customers’ monthly bills.”

Young said there have been no talks or negotiations between his company and DirecTV since Friday.

“I wish they were ongoing. We’ve not heard back from DirecTV since we extended an invitation to continue negotiations last Friday,” Young said.

DirecTV’s press release referred to the current period as a “brief interruption” and to negotiations as ongoing, saying, “While we regret Diversified Communications’ action, we appreciate DirecTV customers’ patience as we work toward a resolution that will continue to result in their enjoying the best video experience at the most reasonable cost.”

The stalemate between WABI’s ownership group and DirecTV affects DirecTV subscribers in the Bangor DMA, which includes Greater Bangor and the six counties surrounding Bangor. That translates roughly into about 250,000 total homes, not all of which represent DirecTV subscribers.

In the meantime, there are some possible alternatives for affected DirecTV subscribers in the Bangor DMA.

According to DirecTV, many subscribers in Bangor already qualify to receive an alternate station with the same network affiliation, so DirecTV has already authorized their accounts. Viewers can also see their favorite CBS, ABC or CW shows by going to www.cbs.com and clicking “watch,” going to www.abc.com and clicking “shows,” or going to www.cwtv.com and clicking “full episodes.”

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