Posted In: Mid-Atlantic
The station affected but the unlaunched station is WDVM.
When Nexstar came forward with its plan to buy Tribune, there were objections from some distributors that claim the broadcaster is a bad actor when it comes to retransmission consent negotiations. But this time around, Nexstar is pointing the finger at the other side of the negotiating table. It has sued DirecTV in a NY federal court, claiming breach of contract. At issue is an “unlaunched station fee” that it says DirecTV agreed to pay for not being required to immediately launch Nexstar station WHAG (aka WDVM). The Hagerstown, MD, station lost its affiliation with NBC on July 1, 2016.
“DirecTV now erroneously claims that its obligation to pay the unlaunched station fee depends on the station retaining its network affiliation. Nothing in the contract supports DirecTV’s wishful thinking,” Nexstar told the court. “Indeed, the contract plainly places the risk on DirecTV that the station might lose its network affiliation during the contract’s term.”
Well, DirecTV was supposed to carry then WHAG (now WDVM). They even have a link on their website to a letter from the VP/General Manager regarding the issue. Nexstar/WDVM has given DirecTV permission to carry WDVM’s signal but DirecTV is choosing not to.
Now, I could understand why they chose not to when they were affiliated with NBC (as WHAG) with NBC-owned-and-operated WRC-TV in Washington, DC being so closed by. But now WDVM is an independent station and carries an insane amount of highly localized news programming for the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, as well as Northern Virginia (via a local “NoVA News” program), all of West Virginia (with their Nexstar sister-stations’ “West Virginia Tonight Live” program), Suburban Maryland (ie: the I-270 corridor, via their local “I-270 News” program), and local newscasts which cover Central and Western Maryland, the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia and parts of extreme southern Pennsylvania (even though they aren’t seen on cable there anymore via Comcast).
These areas typically don’t get news coverage from the DC or Baltimore stations unless something BIG happens. They aren’t driving 70+ miles for a robbery or a new school opening. Unless something explodes or a tornado happens, they aren’t showing up.
Dish Network carries WDVM over the entire Washington DC DMA and did when they were affiliated with NBC. Why DirecTV won’t do so now is anyone’s guess. Clearly Nexstar has a case as DirecTV did not launch WDVM on DirecTV as they were supposed to.
Full disclosure: I live in WDVM’s coverage area and well outside of the DC station’s area of where they’ll go for a “small” story (ie: robbery, school opening). Last time they were in my hometown was when some nut literally blew his house up (long story) in 2006.
If WDVM is so interested in carriage, why not invoke the “must carry” option? It sounds like DirecTV doesn’t want to pay Nextar’s retransmission consent ransom on behalf of the many subscribers in the geographically large Washington MSA for a station with, at best, very limited appeal.
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