Tribune is seeking retransmission compensation from DirecTV to carry 23 local stations -- including KTLA in Los Angeles and WPIX in New York -- and WGN America, Tribune's national network. Seeking to pressure DirecTV, Tribune set up a website for viewers to complain to the satellite TV company, and listed upcoming baseball games that fans will miss if no agreement is reached.
Viewers in some markets could also miss shows like "American Idol" and "Modern Family," if Tribune owns the affiliates that air those shows.
"This situation is extremely unfortunate," said Nils Larsen, Tribune Broadcasting president. "We don't want anyone to lose the valuable programming we provide, but we simply cannot get fair compensation from DirecTV and we cannot allow DirecTV to continue taking advantage of us."
Tribune Broadcasting's contract with DirecTV expired at midnight, and stations began doing dark at midnight Eastern time. DirecTV has never compensated Tribune for the rebroadcast of its television stations, and Tribune is seeking an agreement that it says would be similar to those of "hundreds of other broadcasters and program providers."
DirecTV said it had hoped Tribune would allow its programming to continue during negotiations. It said earlier that it had accepted financial terms from Tribune, but Tribune later denied that was the case.
In markets where Tribune owns the local Fox affiliate, DirecTV subscribers will lose shows like "American Idol," as well as NASCAR and Major League Baseball. In those where Tribune owns the CW affiliate -- including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago -- they will miss shows like "America's Next Top Model," "Gossip Girl" and "The Vampire Diaries." In New Orleans, where Tribune owns the local ABC affiliate, they won't be able to see shows like "Modern Family," or NBA basketball games aired on ABC.
As baseball season starts, Tribune says customers would miss the Cubs and White Sox home openers on WGN, the Phillies' opener on WPHL in Philadelphia, and Mets' games on WPIX-TV -- unless an agreement comes soon.
"In addition, local news, weather, traffic and sports coverage will also be lost, as well as the high-quality entertainment programming we offer on our local stations," said Larsen. "This is a terrible outcome for the communities we serve and we regret that DirecTV has put us in this position."
Tribune noted that their shows remain "available for free in HD with a TV antenna or through an alternative pay-TV provider."