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WDAY, DirecTV carriage talks at impasse

FARGO -- Talks between WDAY, WDAZ and KBMY, and DirecTV over a signal carriage agreement are at an impasse, WDAY-TV general manager Mari Ossenfort said Thursday morning, May 2.

FARGO -- Talks between WDAY, WDAZ and KBMY, and DirecTV over a signal carriage agreement are at an impasse, WDAY-TV general manager Mari Ossenfort said Thursday morning, May 2.

It means DirecTV is not carrying signals for the three television stations.

"We came to an impasse last night," Ossenfort said. "We negotiated last night and we have already traded emails this morning. We are very hopeful that we will be able to resolve this impasse soon."

The last signal carriage contract extension between the Forum Communications properties and DirecTV, which is owned by AT&T, ended at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, June 1.

However, in WDAY's online Frequently Asked Questions section about the talks, the station said DirecTV had recently sent over a revision to the latest contract. WDAY said it responded to that revision and is now "waiting for DirecTV to return a signed agreement."

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WDAY of Fargo said the carriage contract for its programming, and that of WDAZ in Grand Forks and KBMY in Bismarck with DirecTV was to have expired on March 31, but was then extended to May 30 and then to June 1.

"We obviously want to come to terms as quickly as possible," Ossenfort said. "This has not been a fun thing for us or our viewers. We care about our viewers. The biggest pressure is making sure our viewers see the programs they want to see, and that is why we continued to give extensions since March."

"DirecTV makes up about 15 percent of all our viewership in the U.S. and 7 percent if you include Canada," she said.

In its FAQs, WDAY says DirecTV has been slow in responding in contract negotiations. WDAY says it sent its original carriage contract renewal proposal in January, but didn't get a reply until May 16. WDAY then responded a few days later with a counter-proposal, and didn't get a written reply until May 27, which led to extensions of the talks

While not detailing DirecTV's offer, WDAY said it is below what it believes are today's market rates for carrying its signal.

"DirectTV charges people a lot of money for what's coming into their home, and one of the things they charge for is our material," Ossenfort said.

WDAY said if talks fail to reach agreement, viewers can still get its programming free over-the-air, "Or you can cancel your satellite service from DirecTV" and receive the programs from DirecTV's competitors, including DISH Network, Midcontinent and Cable One, or other cable companies. WDAY also shared contact information for Midcontinent, Cable One and DISH Network.

DirecTV was acquired by AT&T in summer 2015.

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According to AT&T spokesman Mark Giga, "DirecTV is working to keep WDAY and WDAZ in our Fargo, Valley City and Grand Forks customers' line-ups even though the station's owner Forum Communications is threatening to block both stations' signals from reaching their homes.

"Forum (Communications) is demanding a significant increase in their current fees just to let these same families keep watching shows that remain available for free over-the-air on channels 21 and 8 and often online at ABC.com or CWTV.com," Giga wrote.

"Forum has unfortunately suspended its stations from other Fargo, Valley City and Grand Forks providers' customers before, so we appreciate our customers' patience as we attempt to resolve this matter quickly, reasonably and with the least inconvenience," Giga wrote.

According to the National Association of Broadcasters, when an impasse occurred, four out of five times it involved AT&T/DIRECTV or DISH.

Forum Communications Co. also owns The Dickinson Press.

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