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Tribune Broadcasting and DirecTV reach 5-year deal

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DirecTV subscribers in 19 U.S. markets, including Indianapolis, have regained access to a host of channels that had been blacked out since Sunday because of a contract impasse with Tribune Broadcasting.

The two companies said late Wednesday that they had struck a deal that will allow DirecTV Inc. to carry all of Tribune Broadcasting's local stations and WGN America for the next five years. Terms were not disclosed.

The deal let Indianapolis stations Fox59 and WTTV return to DirecTV subscribers Wednesday night.

DirecTV Inc. subscribers in the markets lost access to programming ranging from "American Idol" to Major League Baseball after the previous contract with Tribune Broadcasting expired at midnight Saturday. The Tribune Broadcasting channels were restored at about 9 p.m. Wednesday, DirectTV said.

The blackout affected DirecTV subscribers in major markets including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Philadelphia. The blackout also extended to stations in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, Washington state and Washington, D.C. DirectTV said 5 million homes were affected.

In its statement Wednesday, DirecTV accused Tribune of being "willing to hold our customers hostage in an attempt to extract excessive rates." But it described the final agreement as a fair deal at market rates.

Tribune also said it was pleased with the deal.

"On behalf of Tribune Broadcasting, I want to thank viewers across all of our markets for their support, understanding and patience during the negotiating process — we truly regret the service interruptions of the last several days," said Nils Larsen, president of Tribune Broadcasting.

Chicago-based Tribune Co.'s broadcasting group owns or runs 23 television stations, WGN America on national cable and Chicago radio station WGN-AM. Its publishing arm includes daily newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.

Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008 after suffering a financial downturn brought on by a steep slump in newspaper advertising and a debt-laden buyout engineered by real estate mogul Sam Zell.

DirecTV, based in El Segundo, Calif., serves 32 million people in the U.S. and Latin America.

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  • Breakaway
    And as the breakaway from pay tv continues, the over the air broadcasters become the winners. Snooki, the real housewives from hell, the Kardashians and all the other cable tv junk are the losers.
  • As Cost Go Up
    As the cost of service on cable and Direct TV go up consumers will shift to other services such as internet TV and local stations over the air. I know where the fee issue is going, fewer subscribers for Cable and Dish, more over the air and internet TV. This will be interesting to watch the big smart boys price themselves out of a market.

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