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11 Jan

News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting Seek Help From Viewers To Prevent DirecTV Blackout

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DirecTV Blackout

News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting is one of the largest local station groups in the United States and they are currently on the verge of a potential blackout on AT&T’s DirecTV. The station group currently urged their viewers to “help us spread the word about DirecTV’s latest war against viewers”. This request from the local station is in order to prevent the blackout of their channels on DirecTV Now.

According to their webpage: “Unfortunately, consumers can be held hostage if a powerful cable or satellite company refuses to reach a fair deal with a local station.” The webpage also had a banner saying, “Save My Local Station”. The group also noted, “It is simply unfair to you. After all, you pay your cable bill in-full each month why should your cable company get to provide you less than a full slate of channels you pay your hard earned money for.”

News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting group owns a number of stations in small markets such as California, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Idaho, Texas, Oregon, Missouri, and Colorado. The local station is also offering the contact information of DirecTV to their viewers and they even urged them to post their beefs with the cable service provider on social media platforms.

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Save My Local Station

In addition to that, the station group also explained about the retransmission consent agreements between them and DirecTV on their official website. They also asked the customers to support the stations group in their dispute against the pay TV provider.

“It’s true that at the end of the day, this is a business negotiation between two companies,” officials from News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting said. “It is our preference that our viewers never have to get involved. But when cable companies refuse to reach fair deals with local TV stations it threatens the entire community.”

“We’re family-owned News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting. For over 100 years, our company’s first priority has been to you, our viewers. We value honesty and community, and we promise to stand up for fairness for you… and for us,” they further added.

“Too often viewers get caught in the middle of these negotiations and too often you don’t get the truth. You know that’s not how we do business,” News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting said. However, reports from several sources indicate that negotiations between the two parties are still going on.

10 Jan

DirecTV Drops Eight Television Stations In The Coachella Valley

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Reports from several reliable sources indicate that DirecTV recently decided to stop carrying approximately eight television stations in the Coachella Valley. This means that DirecTV subscribers in this region will no longer be able to access the channels offered by these stations. The blackout of these channels is because the renegotiations over carriage agreements between the provider and the stations didn’t end well.

KESQ and the News-Press and Gazette Company recently announced that DirecTV subscribers will not be able to access KESQ-AM, KUNA-FM, Deserts News Now, KCWQ (CW), CBS Local 2, KUNA (Telemundo), KDFX (FOX), and KESQ (ABC) from January 10. The existing contract between these stations and the provider will end on the same date.

The general manger at KSEQ, Mike Stutz said, “Our agreement comes to an end at three o’clock tomorrow afternoon. I can tell you we’re continuing to negotiate in good faith, we’re hopeful we’ll get this resolved before there’s any disruption in service.”

Cable TV providers such as DirecTV usually pay an amount as fees to these stations in order to broadcast their contents. The expiry of the contract between the two parties means that the provider will have to strike a new deal in order to continue offering the channels offered by the stations to their subscribers.

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Dropping Television Stations

In this scenario, both the parties have miserably failed to renegotiate the carrier agreements between them, which means that the provider would be able to remove these channels from air. The parent company of KESQ owns Gulf Broadcasting Company, the company that operates affiliated channels such as KUNA (Telemundo) and CBS Local 2.

In a recent statement, NPG Co. noted, “Unfortunately, consumers can be held hostage if a powerful cable or satellite company refuses to reach a fair deal with a local station. In those cases, a local station can be ‘blacked out’ on a cable system. As a result, viewers like you can miss out on programming you love like NFL and NCAA football, primetime network programs, high profile programs like the Academy Awards and your local news.”

On the other hand, a DirecTV representative responded by stating that “News-Press & Gazette has suspended its stations briefly from our customers and threatened others before, so we appreciate your patience as we work to resolve this matter quickly and reasonably.”

06 Jan

Trump Still Opposes AT&T Time Warner Merger

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President-Elect Donald Trump

President-elect Donald Trump is still opposing the merger between Time Warner Inc and AT&T. He believes that the merger would concentrate much power in the media industry, but Trump has been publicly silent about the mega-merger. It is rumored that the President-elect told his inner circle that he considers the merger decision to be bad. Reports say that chief strategist of Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, also opposes the deal.

During the election campaigns, Trump blasted the deal and shares of Time Warner climbed ten percent on speculation that the Trump Administration would be friendly to the 85.4 billion merger. However, after Bloomberg reported on what Trump thinks about the deal, the shares of Time Warner dropped as much as 3.8 percent.

Hope Hicks, who is the spokeswoman for Trump, did not respond to the rumors, and both Time Warner and AT&T also declined to comment. Nevertheless, Cowen & Co. analyst Paul Gallant feels that the opposition of Trump to the deal is a bit negative. He said that everything is negotiable with the President-elect and added that the review process is still in the very early stages.

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AT&T Time Warner Merger

It is not yet clear if Trump will try to influence the regulatory review of the merger. He can either push the officials to put forward the conditions or block the deal completely. If the deal is made, it will combine the biggest pay television and internet service provider in the US with the largest creator of programming, but the deal will be reviewed by the Justice Department and most probably by the Federal Communications Commission.

Trump will take the President’s office on Jan 20 and has nominated Senator Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice. He has not yet suggested a successor for the departing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler though. In October, before the presidential selection, Trump said that his Administration wouldn’t approve the merger, saying, “It’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” He cited the deal as “an example of the power structure I’m fighting.”

If Trump wishes to influence the review, he may have more success with FCC as they weigh deals on public interest standard, said analyst Craig Moffett. “If the FCC takes the case, President Trump could influence the decision in any number of ways,” Moffett said. “He can effectively turn up the heat and make it very difficult for the FCC to disagree with him.”

04 Jan

KCRA Channels Go Dark On DirecTV

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Blackout Of KCRA Channels

DirecTV cable customers in the Sacramento region will still not be able to access KCRA and its sister channels. Reports indicate that the blackout of these channels is due to the dispute between Hearst Television and DirecTV, over transmission fees. The previous contract between Hearst Television and DirecTV expired at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 01, 2017, following which, KCRA and other channels were blacked out on DirecTV in 28 cities across the United States.

In a recent statement, Hearst said that DirecTV was looking to negotiate a new agreement with them at “below market rates.” On the other hand, DirecTV’s parent company, AT&T, argued that Hearst was looking to acquire “a significant increase in fees just to allow those same families to watch shows available for free over-the-air and that the broadcast networks typically make available for free online and through new digital apps.”

According to media analyst Jan Dawson, the dispute between the two parties gives us an insight on how TV broadcasters are viewing the transmission fees. Most of the stations were content with the little amount delivered by pay-TV providers until a few years ago. Dawson adds that the stations have now realized that “they’re very valuable as part of the channel lineup. These companies clearly want new revenue streams.”

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Dispute Over Transmission Fees

He also says that a few years ago, the amount paid to the stations was actually less than 10 percent of the broadcasters’ revenues. However, the fees paid by some providers currently are a lot more than 30 percent of the total revenue.

Reports indicate that the dispute between DirecTV and Hearst Television will affect approximately 16 percent of the total households in the four-county Sacramento region. The dispute will cover KCRA’s flagship station, Channel 3, and KQCA My58. In addition to that, DirecTV subscribers in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Boston areas will also be affected by this dispute.

Dawson believes that these types of disputes usually end quickly, as subscribers pressurize the providers to reach a settlement with the network, so that they can continue to access their channels. It is to be noted that Cox Media Group stations were also recently blacked out on DirecTV for similar reasons, but the provider reached a new deal with the other party in a matter of few hours.

03 Jan

NBC Blackout For Dish Network Users In Salt Lake City

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Dish Network Users

Despite the offer from Dish Network to extend the contract negotiations, Bonneville International Corp. blacked out Dish customers’ access to KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. Dish Network commented in a news release that, “Bonneville’s blackout impacts customers’ access to KSL-TV in the Salt Lake City area only.”

The Salt Lake City media market includes the complete state of Utah and some parts of the neighboring states and accounts for users in Southern Utah and other areas that experience the blackout. Dish Corporate Communications agent, Courtney Culpepper, was not able to offer details on how long the blackout would be in effect or if the areas that are south of Salt Lake would be affected by the blackout.

The press release by Dish said that Bonneville has made use of the move to gain deal leverage as they seek to get above market rate increases, which is about 250 percent the current rate paid by Dish Network. Bonneville has also refused to accept Dish’s offer to match the rates that are paid by the other pay-TV providers.

“With Dish willing to grant an extension and a retroactive true-up on rates, Bonneville had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving the channel up,” said Warren Schlichting, who is the executive vice president of programming in DISH. “Instead, Bonneville chose to turn its back on its public interest obligations and use innocent consumers as bargaining chips.”

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Bonneville International Corp

Bonneville and Dish were making good progress in their negotiations and Dish was much hopeful that they would be able to make a mutual agreement to renew the carriage of KSL-TV. With this in mind, Dish offered a contract extension for a short term to Bonneville, which included a retroactive true up when new rates were agreed upon and would offer the ability to Dish users to watch KSL-TV while the negotiations between the parties are going on. The true up would make sure that Bonneville was made whole at the new rates for the period of extension of the contract.

“We are actively working to negotiate an agreement that promptly returns this content to Dish’s programming lineup,” added Schlichting. “Bonneville’s decision to cut ties with Dish customers is a prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts,” said R. Stanton Dodge, Dish executive vice president and general counsel. “Broadcasters like Bonneville use their in-market monopoly power to put profits ahead of the public interests they are supposed to serve.”

29 Dec

Dish Network Subscribers Lose Access To KFQX Contents

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Dish Network Subscribers

Dish Network subscribers will no longer be able to access KFQX contents and the Fox programming it offers. This is because the leading cable/satellite provider has failed to reach a settlement with the television station. In addition to that, Dish Network customers will not be able to access both College football and NFL games through these networks.

The networks offered by this station have already been blacked out from the channel lineup of Dish Network, since December 22 to be exact. The officials from KFQX claim that the provider has refused to pay a fair value for the exceptional contents they are offering, which includes popular TV series such as Empire, Lethal Weapon, and Gotham.

Satellite and cable companies must sign an agreement with the local television stations, if they want to bring the stations to customers through the local stations distribution system – this is usually known as retransmission consent. If both the parties fail to reach an agreement, then the satellite or cable company cannot include those particular stations in their distribution system.

Millions of dollars are being invested by each local station in order to bring entertaining and high quality programs to the viewers including popular TV shows, local news update, exclusive coverage of popular sports events, and a lot more. So, these local stations expect a fair payment from the providers, if they want to use their distribution system. In the current scenario, the local station is not happy with the payment offered by Dish Network.

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Channel Blackouts

Interestingly, many customers raised questions on why Dish Network should pay the local stations when they are actually being offered as free over the air. Even Dish Network responded to this issue by claiming that KFQX is actually responsible for the “blacking out” of its signal from the Dish Network channel list.

However, it is said that Dish Network is using the local station as a tool to urge the customers to subscribe to their offerings. The officials from KFQX claim that because Dish Network is using their station in order to lure in customers and make money, they must pay a fair economic value to the programs offered by the local network.

No matter what, recent reports indicate that Dish Network is trying to reach a settlement with the local station. However, we don’t know when will this dispute end or when will Dish subscribers be able access the programming offered by KFQX.

28 Dec

Fullscreen Is Content With The Launch Of DirecTV Now

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The SVOD provider, Fullscreen, recently announced that they have enjoyed great success in their business due to the association with AT&T’s latest online streaming platform, DirecTV Now. However, the company refused to share details on any specific growth metrics, which is related to the launch of DirecTV Now.

The General Manager of Fullscreen, Martin Keely, said, “It’s a really high-quality service. It’s something we’re very interested in.” Keely also added that his company was “really happy with the early returns,” which they acclaimed due to their association with DirecTV Now.

“We’ve been pleased with both the Fullscreen direct offering that’s been in the market, and we’re really happy so far with what’s happening with AT&T,” Keely said. DirecTV Now was launched by AT&T in November with four programming tiers. The basic package offered by DirecTV Now is available to the customers at just $35 a month and it offers them access to more than 60 popular channels.

In addition to that, DirecTV Now is also offering a “sampling” of Fullscreen shows. The aim of this offering is to urge the interested DirecTV Now subscribers to sign in for Fullscreen’s SVOD offering. Keely also added that the company is trying to ink similar “try before you buy” distribution agreements with other streaming service providers.

When asked about the distribution agreements, Keely said that, “We think that’s probably the type of thing that we’ll continue to do. It’s an introduction to what the service is about.”

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AT&T Plans & Offers

Fullscreen was acquired by the Otter Media back in 2014, which is a joint venture between AT&T and Chernin Group. Fullscreen launched their SVOD service later in the month of April with approximately 1000 hours of entertaining content including both licensed series and original series.

Keely said, “Right now, mobile is the most important to us in terms of consumption” and noted that an average Fullscreen subscriber spends over 50 minutes per day with their service. “We are pleasantly surprised with the amount of activity on the [DirecTV Now] service,” he added.

Keely explained that the company initially built their service for smartphones and other devices such as Apple TV. “[But] we want to be in the living room,” he added. Keely also indicated that the company is trying to target other popular streaming devices, which are suitable for living room TV viewing. However, he refused to reveal any details on specific launch plans.

20 Dec

AT&T Claims That Data Free Pricing For DirecTV Now Will Not Harm Competitors

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Data Free Pricing

In a recent announcement, T-Mobile confirmed that they are planning to offer the latest streaming service from AT&T, DirecTV Now, for free to the customers, who switch from the wireless service of Ma Bell. Reports indicate that T-Mobile might have a done an unintentional favor to AT&T through this offering. AT&T cited this as a proof that their latest venture helps in “competitive process at work, driving innovation, lowering prices, and increasing consumer value.”

It is to be noted that AT&T is allowing their wireless customers to access DirecTV Now without eating up their data limit. This offering from AT&T was severely criticized by many analysts, and the FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau had earlier asked the telecom provider for an information request. A letter was written by the telecom provider in order to defend their decision to waive DirecTV Now data fees.

The FCC reached a “preliminary conclusion,” on the issue and they recently stated that the zero rating plan from AT&T to favor their online streaming platform might “inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the ‘virtuous cycle’ needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet.”

The concern is that other streaming service providers such as Hulu, Sling TV, and Netflix, will find it difficult to compete with AT&T, as the provider is allowing their customers to stream and watch their contents without exhausting their data limit. This might violate the net neutrality rules set by the FCC.

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Latest Streaming Service

However, AT&T Federal Regulatory SVP, Joan Marsh, called the view of the FCC bureau as a radical departure from settled law with “no plausible basis” for their conclusion. AT&T officials further stated that neither DirecTV Now nor their wireless service “is or could conceivably become a monopolist in any relevant market.”

They also added that if they charge their wireless customers for accessing these services, then “consumers would be substantially worse off.” Marsh added that they “are more likely to perceive DirecTV Now as a cable substitute if, as with cable, they can consume as much of it as they like without worrying about overages.”

However, reports indicate that if the bureau decides to officially oppose the pricing of AT&T before January 20, then it “will very likely be reserved shortly thereafter.” T-Mobile CEO John Legere stated that both DirecTV apps and DirecTV Now would be freely streaming on T-Mobile with a much advanced network, which nearly covers every American citizen.

15 Dec

AT&T’s Proposed Merger With Time Warner Might Pass Regulatory Review

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AT&T Time Warner Merger

President Donald Trump had earlier claimed that he would block the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner if he were elected as the President of the United States. This had created a great concern among the executives of both the companies. However, many analysts now argue that the leadership of Trump might bring benefits to the companies.

William Power, a chief analyst at RW Baird, said, “We believe the Trump focus on deregulation and lower tax rates could provide a multiplier effect for AT&T’s businesses. Trump’s push for lower tax rates and less regulation should benefit corporate profitability and capital investment, which should in turn benefit AT&T’s results.”

Power believes that improving the economy will certainly give AT&T an additional boost and a lesser tax rate would “meaningfully benefit AT&T’s profitability and cash flow with no change in economic activity.”

In addition to that, reports also indicate that Trump would loosen the regulation on the telecom enterprise and he might even restore the net neutrality protections. This will offer more freedom to the internet service providers to control the pricing, traffic and access.

AT&T‘s zero-rating practices is already being inspected by the Federal Communications Commission. This practice allows customers to access certain services or apps without disturbing their data caps. For instance, AT&T customers can access the latest streaming service from AT&T, DirecTV Now, without eating up their data cap.

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AT&T Plans Ahead

It is significant to note that zero-rating can bring a number of concerns when we consider the competition. Many analysts claim that easing regulation on practices like this will certainly bring tons of benefits. Power also wrote that the chances for the proposed merger between Time Warner and AT&T are a lot higher.

“Time Warner provides a new growth engine, helps diversify the business and adds strong cash flow,” Power added. “Senate hearings last week seemed to be largely favorable, though not altogether surprising. The DOJ will ultimately be the key decision maker, though the vertical nature seems to increase the odds, similar to the previous Comcast-NBCUniversal merger.”

The executives from AT&T are also hopeful that the deal will pass through the regulatory review even though Donald Trump had earlier announced that he would oppose the deal. Reports indicate that the proposed deal between AT&T and Time Warner will bring numerous benefits for both the companies.

13 Dec

Sling TV Is Now More User-Friendly With The Latest Update

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On Now Section

Sling TV is a name much familiar to the Americans, especially to those who do not use satellite or cable for their television services. Sling TV is an alternative that brings cable like live TV to home; the difference is that the service comes through an internet connection. The service works on most of the devices of the user, say smartphone, tablets, Amazon Fire, Roku, and many more.

Sling by Dish Network has been much popular among the users and they are now rolling out a new update. It is said that the latest update makes things a bit more user friendly. Reports on the update says that it includes quick access to favorite content, allow users to resume watching, a menu filter to narrow results, and enables users to make a list of favorite channels. Programs can be resumed from the My TV section and the list of favorite channels can be made in the On Now section.

Recently, Sling has also done a cloud test of their DVR. However, the new feature will be invite-only for Roku users and will help them to record up to 100 hours of TV stream. In addition, users will be able to record more than one show at the same time.

The cloud DVR will be a main rival to PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now services. Sling CEO Roger Lynch said in a press release that the programs that are recorded in the cloud DVR would not expire after 28 days. “Unlike other [over-the-top content] services, we’re delivering a true cloud DVR with no 28-day restriction on your recordings, marking another win for Sling TV and our customers,” Lynch said.

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Sling Latest Update

“Two years ago we became the first live OTT provider, and we continue to innovate and bring the best experience to our customers,” Lynch added. Experts say that the cloud DVR from Sling will offer conflict-free recording to the users with capabilities to pause, rewind, or fast-forward the recorded programs.

The programs recorded on the cloud DVR will be integrated directly to the My TV screen of Sling TV home screen. The cloud DVR automatically manages the available space by removing the oldest watched programs when the maximum space limit is reached. Sling expects that cloud DVR together with the latest updates will equip Sling TV to fight with the new competitors.

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