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DirecTV and Tribune make deal to restore channels

DirecTV reaches a five-year agreement to pay Tribune Co. to carry its 23 local television stations around the country, including KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, and its national cable channel WGN America.

April 05, 2012|By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times

Tribune Co. television stations, including KTLA-TV Channel 5 in Los Angeles, are coming back to satellite broadcaster DirecTV.

After a very public feud, DirecTV reached a five-year agreement late Wednesday to pay Tribune to carry its 23 local television stations around the country and its national cable channel WGN America. With more than 19 million subscribers, DirecTV is the second-largest pay-TV operator, behind Comcast Corp. It has a market share of around 20% in Los Angeles.

KTLA, which has been off DirecTV since early Sunday morning, returned to the air shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"We are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement with DirecTV and to return our valuable news, entertainment and sports programming to DirecTV subscribers," said Nils Larsen, Tribune Broadcasting president. "On behalf of Tribune Broadcasting, I want to thank viewers across all of our markets for their support, understanding and patience during the negotiating process. We truly regret the service interruptions of the last several days."

DirecTV Executive Vice President Derek Chang said the El Segundo company was pleased that "Tribune and their creditors now recognize that all DirecTV wanted from Day One was to pay fair market rates for their channels.... We are very happy to close the deal and put this behind us."

Chicago-based Tribune, which is also the parent of the Los Angeles Times, had pulled its stations from DirecTV last weekend. The next few days saw both companies take public shots at each other. DirecTV accused Tribune of reneging on an agreed-upon deal, which Tribune denied. Then DirecTV filed a complaint against Tribune with the Federal Communications Commission, charging that creditors of bankrupt Tribune, not its management, are calling the shots for the stations. DirecTV said Wednesday that it would drop the complaint.

That the fight was resolved on the opening day of the baseball season is probably not a coincidence. Many of Tribune's stations, including WGN-TV in Chicago and WPHL-TV in Philadelphia, have rights to local teams, and sports fans can be very vocal when denied their home team's games.

Disputes between programmers and distributors over fees have become common over the last few years, although it is still rare that channels are pulled down. Broadcasters such as Tribune are eager to collect so-called retransmission consent fees from cable and satellite operators.

Although distributors initially resisted paying broadcasters to carry their signals, it has become an accepted practice. In this case, DirecTV and Tribune were haggling over price.

joe.flint@latimes.com

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