Scott D. Pierce: No end in sight for latest dispute that knocked KSL off DirecTV

(Tribune file photo and AP file photo) A new dispute between KSL-Channel 5 and DirecTV means DirecTV viewers can no longer see KSL programming.

For the second time in three years, KSL-Channel 5 and DirecTV can't come to an agreement, and local TV viewers are the ones paying the price.

The NBC affiliate has been off the satellite provider's lineup since Aug. 14, and there's no end in sight.

“We are continuing to negotiate and are hopeful we will reach an agreement soon,” said Tanya Vea, KSL's vice president/general manager.


KSL insists that “DirecTV has chosen not to” pay “fair market compensation for the content we provide.”

DirecTV is putting 100 percent of the blame on KSL, insisting it “will never remove” a local station “from your lineup. Period. Station owners may try to avoid their responsibilities to you, but make no mistake: the station owners are the only ones who can decide to take away your local stations.”

The satellite company adds that “fewer people watch shows on local stations than ever before, but broadcasters continue to demand everyone pay more to get the few shows they do watch.”


We’ve been down this road before with umpteen broadcast and cable channels battling multiple cable and satellite providers. Including, yes, the last KSL vs. DirecTV battle, which stretched from Aug. 21-Sept. 12, 2015.


Since legislation that went into effect in 1992, cable and satellite providers have been required to obtain the permission — retransmission consent — of broadcast stations to carry their signal. Generally, they have to pay for it.

And the theory behind that is simple — cable/satellite providers are charging their customers to watch KSL and other broadcast stations while stations are paying to both produce and buy programming.

It's only fair.

And, again, it's not unusual. DirecTV pays Disney for all the ESPNs and Disney channels; it pays Discovery for Animal Planet, TLC, Food Network, HGTV, Travel and, of course, Discovery; it pays Viacom for Comedy Central, MTV, Paramount Network, VH1, Nickelodeon, etc. — and on and on.

The fact that KSL is a broadcast station — that its signal is free to anyone who has an antenna hooked up to their TV — doesn't change the equation at all.

When a channel disappears from your cable/satellite lineup like this, it's almost always temporary. But it's worth pointing out that DirecTV and the Pac-12 Networks have never come to an agreement in the six years since P12N launched, and there's no indication they ever will.


As is always the case when something like this happens, readers ask if they should find another cable/satellite provider. And I never recommend that because it's entirely possible that, as soon as you make the switch, that provider will get into the same sort of dispute with another channel you value.


KSL is encouraging viewers to call DirectTV at 888-333-9947 and demand a discount for the loss of Channel 5. It’s pointing viewers toward its app as well as the NBC app.

And what the folks at KSL aren’t saying is that NFL football is coming up, and they’re hoping that viewers unhappy when they can’t see “Sunday Night Football” will put added pressure on DirecTV.

If history is any indicator, this will be resolved. Eventually. When that will be is anybody's guess.