DirecTV, KOMU at impasse over contract

Snapped on Friday morning, this screenshot of the DirecTV website lists KOMU and the CW as channels available through its service in Mid-Missouri even though those local channels have been off DirecTV since April 11 when an agreement between the parties expired. The site does advise, "all programming subject to change at any time." (Screenshot of www.directv.com/city/columbia-mo/ )

Snapped on Friday morning, this screenshot of the DirecTV website lists KOMU and the CW as channels available through its service in Mid-Missouri even though those local channels have been off DirecTV since April 11 when an agreement between the parties expired. The site does advise, "all programming subject to change at any time." (Screenshot of www.directv.com/city/columbia-mo/ )

It’s been more than a month since area DirecTV customers lost signals to KOMU-TV and its affiliate CW network after the satellite service and local broadcaster failed to come to a contract renewal agreement.

And it doesn’t seem there will be an end to the dispute in the near future.

The original agreement ended March 31, but both sides agreed to two short-term contract extensions that lasted until April 11.

“People are upset about the lengthy absence of KOMU from DirecTV’s lineup,” KOMU General Manager Marty Siddall wrote in a letter to the News Tribune. “Some suggest we simply capitulate in these negotiations and do whatever it takes to come to terms with DirecTV. Unfortunately, despite our repeated efforts to resolve this impasse in a mutually beneficial way, DirecTV has taken a hard line. To simply acquiesce to DirecTV’s demands would do lasting harm both to our viewers and to the educational mission that is the cornerstone of KOMU’s existence.”

But on Thursday, DirecTV spokesman Thomas Tyrer said: “Our negotiators have tried to reach out to Mr. Siddall several times to discuss the situation, but he’s not engaged and will only refer them to the station’s attorney.

“Given its unique relationship to the University of Missouri, KOMU is different from most local TV stations. This is precisely why DirecTV sought direct input from Mr. Siddall once we were unable to reach a separate agreement with KOMU’s independent outside counsel,” Tyrer said.

Negotiations for an agreement have focused on financial matters and streaming rights of programming. KOMU officials said DirecTV is seeking rights to stream all of its content, a condition with which the station can’t comply.

All local network affiliates negotiate retransmission contracts every few years with DirecTV as well as DISH and cable providers.

“Revenues from the cable and satellite companies that resell our programming help us recoup the cost of buying network programming and other popular shows our audiences enjoy,” Siddall said Thursday. “Giving DirecTV everything it demands would jeopardize all future retransmission negotiations and, ultimately, our ability to operate independently of any university or state funding.”

Tyrer said the University of Missouri and KOMU are there to serve the public and this matter keeps them from allowing broadcast journalism students from experiencing the educational opportunities the station can provide.

“DirecTV is and has always been prepared for KOMU to return immediately,” Tyrer said. “These students who work at the station should be heard, and we want to work specifically with KOMU and Mr. Siddall to not only retain, but also improve upon our future relationship on behalf of the Columbia and Jefferson City community.”

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