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UPDATED: WDAZ customers with DirecTV eligible for free antennas

Free antennas for WDAZ viewers with DirecTV will be available while supplies last. The antennas can be picked up at the WDAZ studio, 2200 S. Washington, until 5 p.m. today, and during regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Free antennas for WDAZ viewers with DirecTV will be available while supplies last.

The antennas can be picked up at the WDAZ studio, 2200 S. Washington, until 5 p.m. today, and during regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Proof of DirecTV subscription is required.

An advertisement for the antennas was published Friday in the Grand Forks Herald, and stated the antennas would be available. The ad also ran in today’s paper. It should have said the antennas are available starting Monday. However, customers can show up this afternoon before 5 p.m. and receive the antennas.

Previously, WDAY and WDAZ announced the carriage agreement with DirecTV expired March 31, 2016, but accommodated viewers by extending it twice through June 1.

“Unfortunately, notwithstanding our best effort to reach a new agreement, DirecTV is choosing not to provide you with our award-winning, highly rated stations,” the stations announced in a statement. “WDAY/WDAZ/KBMY greatly appreciates you as a viewer and we are disappointed in the decisions DirecTV is making.

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“On Monday 1,000 antennas were ordered for our DirecTV viewers that will be available for free pick up on Monday, June 20th while supplies last at our TV studios in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck.”

In a statement by Mari Ossenfort, vice president of broadcasting for Forum Communications Co., said the company, which owns the TV stations, is working to negotiate with DirecTV, which charges customers to carry the stations’ signals.

“We know you are upset about missing our local newscasts, your favorite ABC shows and the NBA Finals and want you to know we have appreciated your viewership over the years,” Ossenfort said.

Forum Communications has come to agreements with Cable One, Dish Network, Midco and 25 other distributors to carry the broadcast signals, which is available free with an antenna.

Ossenfort said customers can call DirectTV/AT&T to put WDAZ back into the channel lineup.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions.

1.      Are these Stations the only stations DirecTV has dropped?

No, in fact, DirecTV and DISH are the two pay-TV companies behind four out of every five service interruptions according to the National Association of Broadcasters. In 2015, DirecTV and DISH dropped 201 stations, and thus far this year, it is estimated that they have dropped 88 stations.

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2.      But why did you not allow DirecTV to carry the stations while you are negotiating a new agreement?

We did. We sent DirecTV a proposal for a new agreement on January 27 to replace the existing agreement which expired March 31. Unfortunately, DirecTV refused to even start negotiating a new agreement until May. We gave DirecTV two extensions of time to avoid a service disruption, but to no avail.  Unfortunately, DirecTV has been unwilling to come to the table as of this date with a competitive proposal.

3.      Is this negotiation with DirecTV only about money?

No, money is not the only issue.  We are trying to abide by our network affiliation agreements and the limitations of our copyrights, but DirecTV is making unreasonable and self-serving demands-demands, in fact, no other payTV company has made on us. DirecTV is demanding that we give it certain rights which, by law, we do not now have, and it is demanding the right to strip out part of our signal and deny DirecTV subscribers access to all of the programming we are offering-programming incidentally, we have offered to DirecTV for free.

4.      But isn’t DirecTV only trying to hold down the price it pays the Station and, in turn, keep down the price it charges to subscribers?

Certainly it is appropriate for DirecTV to minimize the price it pays for programming.  However, companies such as DirecTV, reportedly, pay almost four times more for less popular program services than the price we are asking DirecTV for the top rated signals of WDAY-TV, WDAZ-TV and KBMY-TV. In fact, DirecTV is, in short, demanding that our stations subsidize their operations to enable it to pay more for other programming services with whom we compete. It would be irresponsible for us to subsidize DirecTV’s cost of operation and grant it all the special financial benefits it is demanding.

5.      How much are you asking DirecTV to pay?

The price is less than a cheap cup of coffee per month. We believe DirecTV is paying far more than that for other channels with far less viewership than WDAY, WDAZ and KBMY. WDAY+ is the most watched station in the market.

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6.      But aren’t you just asking DirecTV for more money to enhance your profit?

No, absolutely not. We now have to pay our networks and our program suppliers significantly more for highly rated sports and entertainment programming because DirecTV and other payTV companies are competing for and trying to outbid us for the best programs.

7.      The upshot though is that DirecTV will raise rates for subscribers if it pays you more, will it not?

DirecTV does not have to raise its subscriber rates in order to pay us competitive market rates for our signal. DirecTV can elect to pay less for the less popular channels-channels that you probably don’t want and never watch.  It’s that simple.

8.      What does DirecTV pay for other channels?

Based on publicly-available information, payTV providers, such as DirecTV, pay substantial fees per month for the right to carry ESPN, TNT, and many other satellite networks that have far fewer viewers, no local employees, and which provide you with no local news.

9.      Why should DirecTV pay for a signal that is available for free to viewers over the air?

For many years, we have been providing viewers with around-the-clock news, political coverage, traffic, weather, public service announcements, as well as popular local and national programming. DirecTV enhances its profits by including broadcast stations like ours in its lineup.  Like any other business, DirecTV should pay fair market value for the right to resell our signals at a profit.

It costs a substantial amount of money for us to produce local programming, bid for top-quality national and sports and entertainment programming, invest in high definition, and make other upgrades to equipment and technology so that we can deliver a superior product, in addition to investing in the communities we serve. We must be on the same level playing field as the payTV companies so we can continue to provide the top-quality news, sports, entertainment and other local programming that is important to you.

10.    Will DirecTV reduce our monthly bill if it is no longer offering your Station?

It should, of course. But that is DirecTV’s decision; we have no control over it.

11.    Is DirecTV’s offer to you consistent with today’s market proposals for stations like WDAY-TV, WDAZ-TV and KBMY-TV?

No, it is not. DirecTV’s offer is below what we believe to be today’s market rates and the other demands DirecTV is making greatly exceed those made to us by other satellite and cable companies.

12.    So, as a DirecTV subscriber, how can I continue to receive WDAY-TV, WDAZ-TV, and KBMY-TV and not miss my favorite program?

You can receive WDAY-TV, WDAZ-TV, KBMY-TV and KMCY-TV, for free, over-the-air, or you can cancel your satellite service from DirecTV and receive the Station and other program services from the DISH Network, Midcontinent or Cable One. Some areas have the additional option of receiving WDAY-TV, WDAZ-TV, KBMY-TV and KMCY-TV from other cable companies.

Midcontinent:            1-800-888-1300

Cable One:                1-877-692-2253

DISH Network:          1-844-903-1514

13.    What can I do to keep WDAY, WDAZ and KBMY on DirecTV?

You may wish to express your concern to DirecTV and ask it to treat its subscribers, our stations, and all of us in this community, fair and equitably.

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