At 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, around 40,000-50,000 DirectTV subscribers throughout the tri counties lost KEYT-TV Channel 3’s signal. Now, instead of displaying local weather and news coverage, the screen beams blue, with words like a white flag reading: “DirecTV has been unable to renew our agreement with this broadcast station, and the station has forced us to take it down.”
KEYT may be experiencing an uncomfortable bout of déjà vu. The ABC affiliate is once again at an impasse for a new contract with one of its carriers. Last year, the station struggled to reach an agreement with Cox Communications, resulting in the carrier’s public censure of KEYT as, “demanding unreasonable fees that are far above market rate,” in an email sent to its customers. The media companies eventually reached a deal, and broadcasts continued as usual.
DirecTV won’t fold so easily. Their previous contract expired on September 30, but KEYT permitted an extension in hopes of reaching an agreement, just as they had with Cox last year. However, on Wednesday morning, DirecTV terminated carriage after failing to agree with KEYT’s parent company, New-Press & Gazette Co. (which has no affiliation with the Santa Barbara News-Press), on the price DirecTV will pay for the right to resell the channel’s signal to DirecTV subscribers.
They also struggled with DirecTV’s request to put KEYT’s signal on the Internet. In a press release, KEYT General Manager Mark Danielson said the carrier “pays other, considerably less popular program providers more than five times the rate the station is asking in payment for its more highly rated signal.”
The press release also stated that Danielson hoped to resolve the issue but “cautioned” DirecTV subscribers to make plans for receiving KEYT off the air for free or switch to a local cable company or DISH satellite service.
KEYT’s website summed up its stance with this statement: “You might, in fact, wish to drop your DIRECTV service, check out the rates with other services, and switch to another service — or simply watch us, for free, over-the-air. We deeply regret the inconvenience DIRECTV’s actions have caused.”