DirecTV, KOMU in contract dispute

Mid-Missouri DirecTV customers lost signals to KOMU-TV and its affiliate CW network on Friday, after the satellite service and local broadcaster failed to come to a contract renewal agreement.

The agreement ended March 31, but both sides agreed to two short-term contract extensions that lasted until 5 p.m. Friday.

Negotiations are continuing on the agreement, which includes financial terms and streaming rights. Matt Garrett, KOMU’s director of audience development, said DirecTV is seeking rights to stream all of its content, a term it can’t comply with.

“This is copyrighted material and our agreements with these program providers — like NBC, CW or any of our syndicated shows, like ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Dr. Oz,’ — they give us the right to broadcast those programs. What we don’t have is the right to stream those. It’s like a lease situation.”

He said very few stations have the right to stream programs, and that KOMU would have to strike separate agreements to have those rights.

DirecTV spokesman Thomas Tyrer said he believes the streaming request is for content that KOMU has the rights to stream.

It’s unclear how many DirecTV customers are affected. KOMU referred the question to DirecTV, which said it doesn’t release those figures for competitive reasons. Likewise, neither side is discussing exact financial terms.

“KOMU-TV is requesting literally a few cents per day for its NBC, CW, syndicated and local programming,” KOMU said on its website. Tyrer countered: “Clearly, we’re not talking about a few cents here, otherwise this would not be an issue.

“When you have stations or networks that are less popular than before and yet want five times more compensation from our customers, something has to give,” Tyrer said.

KOMU’s Garrett declined to specify the length of the proposed contract renewal, but he did say that the length is not in dispute.

On its website, DirecTV wrote: “As a public university that already relies upon state tuitions and other public monies and subsidies, the University of Missouri ought to know that broadcast licenses are conditioned on serving the public rather than antagonizing it.”

Garrett said KOMU is not subsidized by tax dollars.

“KOMU TV is a self-funded auxiliary enterprise of the University of Missouri,” he said. “KOMU TV receives no funding from the university and no funding from the state of Missouri. And we operate on income generated by commercial advertising, production services and retransmission fees. Our newsroom is a teaching lab for the School of Journalism.”

Garrett said it’s unfortunate the dispute is affecting local viewers, and that KOMU is working diligently to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

“We’re just a small-market television station that is trying to negotiate a beneficial agreement with a multibillion-dollar media conglomerate such as DirecTV,” he said.

Tyrer said the University of Missouri and KOMU are there to serve the public. “To antagonize the public rather than serving it, we think is counter-productive,” he said.

Last fall, the Columbia-based ABC and Fox affiliates temporarily dropped their signals from DirecTV after a similar contract dispute.

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