SBJ/October 10-16, 2011/Media

DirecTV, Fox talk as contracts end

Contracts for 26 of Fox’s cable channels — including all 19 of its regional sports networks — recently ended with DirecTV, according to several sources.

The affiliate contracts were to expire at the end of September. But Fox’s cable channels, including FX, Speed, Fox Soccer, Fuel and Fox Deportes, are still up and running on the satellite operator. DirecTV also is carrying Fox-owned channels National Geographic and Fox Movie Channel without contracts.

DirecTV and Fox declined to comment. With more than 19 million subscribers, DirecTV is the second-biggest U.S. distributor.

The negotiations are not solely focused on Fox’s cable channels. DirecTV’s contract to carry the Fox broadcast network wraps up at the end of the year. And Fox News’ deal expires at the end of January.

Fox has been clear about its desire to increase the amount of retransmission consent revenue its broadcast network gets from distributors. Sources say Fox has been cutting deals worth up to $1 a subscriber per month for its broadcast network. It’s unknown what rate Fox and DirecTV are negotiating.

The DirecTV-Fox negotiations have stayed under the radar, which is a stark contrast to Fox’s deals with Dish Network and Cablevision last year. Last October, several Fox channels went dark on both Dish Network and Cablevision during a particularly bitter set of affiliate negotiations.

Several of Fox’s cable channels — including its RSNs — went dark on Dish Network, and the channels stayed off of Dish Network for a full month.

Fox’s broadcast channel also went dark on Cablevision last October for two weeks during the MLB playoffs. Even after the two sides struck a deal, they continued a war of words. With a deal in hand, the cable operator called for the FCC to change retransmission consent rules and Fox accused Cablevision of manufacturing the dispute “to effect regulatory change to their benefit.”

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