NBC programs, including NFL games, blocked for Utah DirecTV subscribers due to contact dispute

Associated Press

Many DirecTV subscribers in Utah are upset after they turned on their TVs Thursday night and were unable to watch the NFL season opener on NBC. It may happen again when they try to watch Sunday night.

KSL-TV, the NBC affiliate in Utah, has been off the air for DirecTV subscribers for the past three weeks because the two sides haven't been able to come to terms on a new contract.

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KSL says DirecTV isn't offering fair compensation. DirecTV says KSL is asking for too much.

As both sides point fingers, an estimated 200,000 DirecTV subscribers in the state scramble to find ways to watch their favorite NBC shows. The anger ratcheted up Thursday when they found a black screen instead of Patriots-Steelers game. The Giants-Cowboys game Sunday night also will be blacked out if a deal isn't reached.

On KSL's Facebook page, a flurry of irritated viewers lodged complaints. Some accused the station of being greedy and allowing negotiation tactics to affect customers. KSL general manager Tanya Vea said Friday that similar phone calls and emails came in to KSL offices in Salt Lake City, the only TV station owned by a business arm of the Mormon church.

"I get it, I totally get it. It's frustrating. You're paying a lot of money for this service," said Vea, herself a DirecTV subscriber, but added about negotiations, "There's a point where we can't afford to lose money. There's a minimum for us that we just can't go below."

She said KSL is merely asking for fair compensation similar to what they've negotiated with other cable companies such as Comcast Corp. She said negotiations continue but they've been painfully slow and frustrating, and she doesn't know when it will get resolved.

DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said in a statement that the company is working to come up with a deal as soon as possible. Company officials have previously said KSL's demands would increase the cost to customers.

"While we believe KSL should have never taken away the channel in the first place, we asked them to put on last night's NFL game so that customers wouldn't be shut out, but KSL refused," Gringeri said in an email. "We are asking them to do the same for Sunday's game and are awaiting their reply."

Vea confirmed that request came in from DirecTV but said KSL doesn't plan to air NFL games in the middle of negotiations. Viewers can still watch NBC programming by using antennas.

KSL-TV first went off of DirecTV on Aug. 21 when the station chose not to give another extension to the satellite company. Vea said the old contract ran out at the end of June, but the station granted three extensions.

KSL is encouraging people to call Direct TV and demand discounts or other considerations.

Vea said despite being the little guy in the negotiations, KSL isn't going to back down and cower to DirecTV, recently purchased by AT&T Inc.

"I think they are intentionally stringing it out as long as they can," Vea said. "It's not that we're not making progress, but we should have had this done before football started."