I pay DIRECTV to make sure I always get my favorite shows, but when there is a contract dispute, I’m told I may lose my channels. So just who is responsible for taking them away?
Let’s clear this up right now. DIRECTV does not take stations away in a contract dispute. The station owner holds the broadcasting rights for its channels and is solely responsible for whether they stay or go in our programming line-up. However, station owners do take away channels from customers all the time and try to blame other cable or satellite services because we connect your TV to that channel. They employ this tactic to try and extract excessive prices that will drive up your monthly bill to unacceptable levels. We believe these actions are wrong and anti-consumer, but rest assured we will do everything we can to convince the station owner to return your channels if they ever take them down. Our goal is to always keep you connected while working toward a fair deal to keep your bill as low as possible.
Why shouldn’t I just switch to some other cable, satellite or telco video provider who can promise me what I want?
Unfortunately, these disruptions have become an industry-wide problem. No pay TV provider is immune. In the first half of 2012 alone, there have been more than 60 different blackouts affecting tens of millions of cable, satellite and telco video customers the exact same way they do you – by causing unnecessary anger and confusion. But worse, they force everyone to pay a lot more to receive the same thing. In the past ten years, DIRECTV customers have endured only four occasions when a station or network owner temporarily suspended a channel, which is far better than other major television providers. Even in those cases, disruptions lasted a very short amount of time.
Why don’t you just give the station or network owners what they want so I’m 100 percent guaranteed of never losing any of my favorite shows?
We’re more than willing to compensate station owners and network owners fairly, but some programmers try to deny you the channels you want, at least temporarily, in order to extort more money from satellite, cable or telco video providers that will drive up what you pay for TV service. We’re often presented ridiculous rates for channels that have taken a dip in ratings, no longer carry popular programming or cannot produce a quality product because of a lack of investment. As long as they can take their channels away, blame the pay TV provider, and make customers upset enough to potentially switch providers, they believe they have DIRECTV—and you—over a barrel. This is why we’ve created DirectvPromise.com—to help keep you informed and so you can make up your own mind.
If so many of these disputes involve local broadcast stations, why don’t you just make a deal with ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC or CW rather than their local affiliates?
FCC rules demand that we negotiate separately with every one of the hundreds of different stations licensed to show those networks’ programs in their respective communities. Most of the time these agreements get done behind closed doors and privately, just as they should. But now some network owners would rather threaten to pull their station(s) out of your line-up so they can attempt to drive up their prices two, three and even four times the amount they’ve ever received before. It’s simply not sustainable for anyone. We feel these practices are a complete abuse of the public trust and station’s license to free use of the airwaves. We’re working with other video providers and your local Congressional representatives to try to end these anti-consumer practices once and for all.
You say you are fighting to keep our bill low, but yet you raise prices every year.
That’s a completely fair and reasonable concern. This trend is happening across every major video provider and not just DIRECTV. In many cases, others are raising their subscriber rates by 10-15 percent per year to cover the rising costs from the same station and network owners. We’ve raised our rates by an average of 3-4 percent over the past several years, which is less than any other major video provider, even though our actual programming costs have increased by nearly 10 percent. We believe that’s fair and we need to share these costs as much as you. But trying to keep costs low isn’t enough. We also believe we need to keep re-investing and innovating to provide you the very best video experience at the most reasonable price.
When disputes occur, how long am I likely to have to go without my favorite programs?
In many cases you won’t. Much of the content is available either immediately or within 24 hours online, and we will always try to help you to find it. Second, whenever a local broadcast station owner takes away your stations, we immediately authorize eligible customers to receive what’s called “Distant Network Signals.” If your home is too far for you to receive the same signal over-the-air with an antenna, then the FCC allows us to offer you an alternative, meaning you’ll still get an ABC, CBS, CW, FOX or NBC station to match. If you qualify, you don’t need to do anything. We’ll just make sure it’s there in your line-up between channels 390-399 and most times we’ll call you to make sure you know it. You can always check DirectvPromise.com to see immediate information and updates on the status of any programming disputes or related situations where any channel may leave your line-up temporarily.
How does Distant Network Signals (DNS) qualification work exactly?
Federal law gives broadcast companies the exclusive rights to distribute local stations to the public. That means we cannot by law bring another ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, or NBC station into a city unless the station that’s licensed to serve that community will allow it—and they never do in these contract disputes. Since the station owner holds the broadcasting rights for its channels, they are solely responsible for whether they stay or go in our programming line-up. They will take them away so you get upset enough to surrender to whatever pricing demands they have. We continue to argue to the FCC and Washington that these sorts of situations are exactly why they need to change the rules.
Why don’t people just get whatever channel is missing with an over-the-air antenna?
In many cases it’s as simple as that. If you’re missing a local ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, or NBC station, all you have to do is turn off your DIRECTV receiver and turn to the channel on your television set. If you have a newer digital television set, usually the antenna is built right in. As with the old rabbit ears, the reception depends on where you live and whether there are buildings or other obstacles in the way between you and the station’s transmitters. You can often boost that reception with a fairly inexpensive external digital antenna available from any local electronics store. Today’s antennas are also quite small and convenient. Nine times out of ten, these disputes involve local broadcast channels, but if it’s a cable or satellite network the owner has removed from your line-up, much of the programming is available online. It’s not ideal, but it’s usually enough to keep you connected during the short period of time it usually takes to work out these disputes.