If you've been paying attention to commercials running lately on WRAL, you already know that the Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owns the local CBS affiliate WRAL and the local Fox affiliate WRAZ, is negotiating with DIRECTV to keep Capitol stations available to DIRECTV customers.
The company's contract with DIRECTV is set to expire on Dec. 31.
The commercial running right now features a woman explaining WRAL's position in the negotiation process, a tactic often used by both sides in these types of negotiating battles to win the hearts and minds of viewers. The actress says she "found out" about the negotiations and then explains Capitol Broadcasting's requested fee increase, saying she thinks it's fair because WRAL is "the most watched channel" on DIRECTV's lineup.
Neither DIRECTV nor WRAL would comment on the details of the negotiation, but a WRAL website says that the figure the station seeks is "the cost of a cup of coffee per month per subscriber." (And yes, the cost of a cup of coffee can vary tremendously.) DIRECTV does not release subscriber numbers by market, region or state — it will only say that it has 19.9 million subscribers in the United States. DIRECTV subscribers account for about 16.9 percent of the audience for CBS-owned stations, according to SNL Kagan data. (WRAL is not a CBS-owned station.)
DIRECTV retransmits WRAL and Fox, both of which are free over-the-air, to their subscribers as part of packages that range in price from $29.99 per month to $119.99 per month, excluding fees and sales tax.
WRAL asserts that they are the most-watched channel on DIRECTV's local lineup and that they are "among the least paid."
Last month, similar commercials ran on WRAL featuring the same actress talking about how Capitol Broadcasting is a locally owned company that cares about the community.
DIRECTV negotiated a new deal with CBS earlier this fall, but that only applied to CBS-owned and operated stations, Showtime, CBS Sports Network and the Smithsonian Channel.
Such contract negotiations are common, and often only come to the public's attention when things turn ugly or when negotiations reach an impasse. WRAL negotiated a new contract with Time Warner Cable in 2010. Those negotiations were private and the terms were not disclosed.
In July, a DIRECTV battle with media company Viacom turned ugly and 17 Viacom channels (which include Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon) went dark for DIRECTV customers for ten days.
A similar dispute this fall kept AMC off the Dish Network for nearly four months, causing Dish subscribers to miss the season premiere of AMC's most popular show, "The Walking Dead."
When contacted recently, DirecTV released the following statement about the current Capitol Broadcasting negotiation:
DirecTV - DIRECTV and Capitol Broadcasting share a long and productive business relationship based upon our mutual respect and commitment to the North Carolina communities we continue to serve. Our customers who watch Capitol’s local TV stations can be assured DIRECTV will not remove any Capitol Broadcasting stations at the end of the year and we anticipate achieving a new long-term partnership well before Capitol would consider removing any of its stations from our lineup.
WRAL's current commercial
Are you watching WRAL on DirecTV right now? Did you know DIRECTV has to pay the TV station to show this channel? I think that's fair. Since DIRECTV charges me for something I could get for free. I found out they're negotiating a new contract. And get this. Per month, the TV station only wants the cost of a cup of coffee. Come on DIRECTV, get with the program. This is the most watched channel on your lineup. I'm following the whole thing on keepWRALon.com. You should check it out.
Statement on keepWRALon.com
You've come to the right place to learn about the current contract negotiation between WRAL-TV and DIRECTV.
What's this about?
DIRECTV retransmits our channel, which is free to you over-the-air. They sell it to you bundled with a number of other channels. Typical subscribers pay an average of $95 a month.
Federal law says stations can negotiate with satellite and cable providers for payment for the station’s signal. WRAL-TV is the most-watched channel on the entire DIRECTV lineup, and currently we're among the least-paid. They reportedly pay many lesser-watched channels far more. We're simply asking DIRECTV to do the right thing and be fair.
The cost of a cup of coffee per month per subscriber.
It's more than fair. It's a fraction of the value we bring to DIRECTV.
We want our news, weather, sports, local programming and CBS to be available to you on DIRECTV. We hope to reach a fair agreement quickly so you don't miss any of your favorite shows.