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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Sinclair's scare tactics seem counter-productive — and really annoying

My first thought upon seeing those big, scary crawls on KUTV and KMYU - crawls that made it seem almost a foregone conclusion that those channels will no longer appear on DirecTV come March 1 - was, "Here we go again."

Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns both stations, has a habit of doing this sort of thing. And it's worth reminding you that this is not a local issue. This is not Channel 2 vs. DirecTV, it's Sinclair and its 24 Fox affiliates, 19 MyNetworkTV affiliates, 16 CW affiliates, 12 ABC affiliates, 11 CBS affiliates, three NBC affiliates, one Azteca affiliate and one independent station vs. DirecTV.

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It's not KUTV/KMYU's fault.

But when it comes to Sinclair, this has happened before. With some frequency.

August 2012: Sinclair vs. Dish Network

December 2011: Sinclair vs. Verizon

March 2011: Sinclair vs. Comcast.

December 2010/January 2011: Sinclair vs. Bright House; Sinclair vs. Time-Warner

December 2009/January 2010: Sinclair vs. Mediacom

April 2007: Sinclair vs. Charter

In all those cases an agreement was reached without service interruption. In several, the two sides worked past the end of the previous contract to secure a new deal.

There has been one major service interruptions. In January 2007, Sinclair pulled its stations from Mediacom Cable for about a month, until the U.S. Senate urged the FCC to look into the issue. But, in every other case, Sinclair made dire, doomsday predictions that upset viewers without ever coming to pass.

Again, what this comes down to is that Sinclair wants DirecTV to pay more for its broadcast signals than DirecTV thinks they're worth. And Sinclair has taken the negotiations public without providing any details about them.

Viewers aren't the only ones who feel like they've heard this before. The folks at DirecTV are convinced the two sides will reach an agreement:

"We're engaged in productive discussions with Sinclair Broadcast Group to retain their local stations in the DirecTV line-up. Our customers can be assured that neither DirecTV nor Sinclair has any intention of allowing the disruption of their local stations. These are the same unnecessary threats, posing as warnings, that Sinclair has made to frighten customers of other pay TV providers. We will compensate Sinclair fairly, but our customers should not be forced to pay more than twice as much for the same programs that remain available completely free of charge over the air and online."

Look, I believe local stations should be compensated by cable and satellite companies. In this particular case, I don't know who's right and who's wrong ... largely because nobody is releasing financials.

I suspect there's some middle ground that the two will reach.

I do not believe it makes much sense to negotiate in public. I do not believe it makes much sense to urge viewers to call the cable/satellite companies and make demands.

That worked really well when the Mountain West Conference tried that tactic with Dish Network It's working really well in the Pac-12's ongoing efforts with DirecTV.

Dish never picked up The Mtn. No Pac-12 Network programming has aired on DirecTV, by the way.

I do know that Sinclair has a history of alarming its viewers, which seems counter-productive. And downright annoying.



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