Neither KXJB, DirecTV yielding as subscribers get increasingly frustrated while standoff continues over transmission of CBS affiliate
FARGO - The standoff between Fargo television station KXJB and DirecTV over fees to retransmit the CBS affiliate's signal is more than three weeks old, and neither side is backing down.
That means local DirecTV subscribers who love the shows "CSI" and "NCIS" still have to scramble to get their weekly crime-scene fix.
Likewise, sports lovers who missed NFL playoff games might now be worrying about missing the NCAA's annual "March Madness" basketball tournament.
On Friday, KXJB General Manager Charley Johnson said there was no breakthrough in the talks and they are continuing.
KXJB decided on Jan. 8 it would not allow DirecTV to rebroadcast its signal without charge.
Federal law lets broadcasters charge retransmission fees for their signals, and many are doing so to make up for advertising revenues that have eroded over the past few years.
"I feel bad the viewers get caught in the middle of this. They're the innocent victims," Johnson said.
Some viewers do feel victimized.
"I am a victim, and yes, my husband and I miss some of the programming," said Diane Lee of Fargo. They tried to buy two different antennas to pull in KXJB's analog signal, with no luck.
"Damn right I'm ticked!" said Darrel Bratteli, who owns a lake home near Detroit Lakes, Minn. "My daughter and her husband and kids are living there at the present and are growing increasingly agitated at not having the CBS feed."
Amanda Huggett of Fargo has been going to her friends' homes to watch her favorite shows.
"I don't want to have to plan on watching my two shows every week somewhere else for much longer," Huggett said.
Steve Hartman of Moorhead puts the blame on both companies.
"If this isn't resolved by the NCAA tournament, it would make me very upset," he said.
KXJB is not alone. DirecTV is also in a dispute over the fees with KJZZ, a Salt Lake City station.
KXJB and DirecTV will not say what their offers are, or how far they were apart. But an estimate on the difference between the two positions may be made from figures posted on KXJB's Web site.
KXJB said the two firms are $12,000 apart. It also estimates DirecTV has 28,000 customers locally.
If those numbers hold, that puts the gulf between the two sides at about 43 cents per subscriber per month.
Johnson said on the Web site that another station owned by KXJB's parent firm will be paid 15 percent more by DirecTV than what KXJB was offered.
Robert Mercer, public relations director for DirecTV, said in an e-mail that KXJB "continues to demand that DirecTV pay a significant and unreasonable fee increase."
KJZZ, for its part, is open about what it wants. On its Web site, the station said it wants 16 cents per month per subscriber.
The station said the fee is in line with what is being paid to rebroadcast its programming on other satellite and cable firms.
Retransmission fees hold the potential to be a major moneymaker for broadcast stations, which have seen their ad revenues erode.
According to SNL Kagan Research, retransmission fees for cable, direct broadcast satellite and telecom firms were $487.5 million in 2008, but could top $1.3 billion by 2012.
For satellite providers, SNL Kagan said revenues were $287.2 million from the fees in 2008, but could hit $462.2 million in 2012.
Analysts for SNL Kagan and Multichannel News have reported that rebroadcast fees for cable firms run in a range of 20 cents to 60 cents per month per subscriber.
Johnson said the dispute doesn't involve sister station KVLY, an NBC affiliate. That station has a long-term agreement with DirecTV, he said.