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18 News-Press & Gazette stations restored to DIRECTV subs in retrans agreement


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18 News-Press & Gazette stations restored to DIRECTV subs in retrans agreement

After a blackout of more than a week, News-Press and Gazette Co has reached a retransmission-consent deal with AT&T Inc.'s DIRECTV unit.

Eighteen News-Press & Gazette stations in Missouri, Oregon, Texas, Idaho, Colorado and California had been unavailable to DIRECTV subscribers since Jan. 12. The parties, whose contract originally expired on Sept. 30, 2016, had continued to negotiate through a series of extensions, including a trio of one-day interim deals from Jan. 10 to Jan. 12. Those agreements had kept the stations on DIRECTV's air until the night of Jan. 12.

Late on Jan. 21, the broadcaster indicated on its stations' websites that a new deal was in place. "We have reached an agreement to restore our stations to the DIRECTV system," read the message. "Thank you for your patience and support as we worked through the negotiation."

A spokesman for the station group in an email on Jan 22 confirmed the pact: "We reached a deal with DIRECTV last night. All DIRECTV program streams have been restored." He declined to discuss the length or financial terms of the agreement.

An AT&T spokesman also issued a statement on Jan 22, saying: "We're glad to have reached an end to this unnecessary blackout with News-Press & Gazette and that it has returned its stations back to our customers DIRECTV lineup ... broadcasters who are granted public license to serve their communities should not ever engage in these intentional blackouts."

The agreement comes after DIRECTV requested temporary rights to air the NFL conference championship games on Jan. 22. The Atlanta Falcons host the Green Bay Packers at 3 p.m. ET on FOX (US), while the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the New England Patriots on CBS (US) at 6:40 p.m. A number of the stations owned by News-Press & Gazette are affiliated with FOX, while one presents CBS programming.

AT&T had issued an earlier statement that read, in part: "DIRECTV has agreed to compensate News-Press & Gazette for entire day's schedule rather than the three hours for a typical game, and also apply any higher retransmission consent rate to which the two parties eventually agree."

It's unclear what role, if any, the NFL games played in DIRECTV and News-Press signing a new accord. The message on the stations' site previously referenced the possibility that viewers could miss seeing Super Bowl LI, which will air on FOX on Feb. 5.

NFL action, in particular the Patriots-Steelers AFC championship contest, is part of the back-and-forth in a dispute between Meredith Corp., WFSB, a CBS affiliate, and the Altice USA unit of Altice NV.

WFSB, which reaches Altice USA customers in Litchfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut, went dark on Jan. 13, after the parties failed to reach a retransmission-consent agreement. Altice USA said that most of its Connecticut subscribers can see the game via the WCBS, the owned-and-operated station that serves the New York DMA.

However, the cable operator has made a second request to Meredith to make the station available for Patriots' playoffs games – the first of which was for the club's Jan. 14 Divisional round win over the Houston Texans, and now the AFC title tilt.

"We've heard from our Litchfield and New Haven customers and know they want to watch the Patriots game this weekend," Altice USA said in a statement. "We're frustrated too and think it's outrageous that WFSB refuses to put the channel back on for our customers as we continue our negotiations."

WFSB General Manager Klarn DePalma, in an email on the morning of Jan. 22, would only say the parties were continuing to negotiate. Altice USA officials did not respond bv press time.