DirecTV faces blackout from Belo over retrans dispute

Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 14-10-2011

Satellite operator DirecTV is finding itself embroiled in a retransmission spat with affiliate owner Belo Television Group. The dispute threatens programming for subscribers in 11 states.
The upshot is that ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC broadcasts could go dark on 1 November unless a deal is reached.
Belo is looking to raise retransmission rates for local free-to-air programming covered under the “must-carry” provisions for cable and satellite service. It has applied some leverage in the negotiations by warning viewers via a series of commercials that if they are a DirecTV subscriber, they could lose coveted viewing like live sports (the World Series is coming up) and primetime comedies and dramas, not to mention the local and national news.
"Belo has decided to notify its viewers of our discussions, which is something they did during similar talks with Time Warner Cable and DISH Network last year,” DirecTV said in a statement. “None of those customers ever lost access to Belo stations and we expect the same positive result here.”
The statement added, "Their TV commercials are nothing more than a routine approach to try and gain leverage in negotiations. DirecTV customers should ignore Belo's scare tactics and enjoy their DirecTV service as they always have."
Belo operates 16 stations in Texas, Arizona, Washington, Arizona Kentucky, Oregon, Idaho, Missouri, Louisiana, North Carolina and Virginia.
While Belo hasn’t gone s far as to actually pull programming, past carriage fee disputes show that t is not outside the realm of possibility. News Corp. pulled FOX programming from Cablevision during the World Series last year, and Mediacom has lost LIN TV stations, ever since its retransmission agreement expired six weeks ago.