Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tribune Co. plays hardball with DirecTV

Posted By on 03.29.12 at 04:33 PM

DirecTV subscribers may not see Sundays regular-season home finale for the Blackhawks.
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • DirecTV subscribers may not see Sunday's regular-season home finale for the Blackhawks.
Now this is hardball.

It was reported earlier this week that the Tribune Co. is threatening to pull its programming—primarily WGN TV and its national sibling station WGN America—from DirecTV. The Trib wants additional monetary compensation from the satellite TV company for its desirable product, including Chicago sports franchises the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks.

The Trib has set a deadline at the end of the month, putting the opening of the baseball season and the end of the NBA and NHL regular seasons in jeopardy for DirecTV subscribers. Talk about noise going silent.

Thursday the Trib got down and dirty with a wraparound "advertisement" on its front page calling for viewers to "tell DirecTV to keep WGN" and its CW Network.

"If you subscribe to DirecTV," it continued, "watching your favorite shows on WGN-TV is in jeopardy. You will lose WGN Sports." It offered a call-in number and a website to weigh in and put pressure on DirecTV.

The Trib hasn't yet resorted to running an editorial on the subject, but it may, considering how it used that format to argue its self-interests in opposing the longtime ban on cross-ownership between newspapers and TV stations.

Of course, it's playing from a position of strength in this battle of corporate behemoths. As a former DirecTV subscriber, I can testify that there's very little love lost between its customers and the firm. Losing the Cubs, Sox, Bulls, and Hawks—if not Two and a Half Men reruns—would leave subscribers howling and, no doubt, eventually running to the competition.

So DirecTV will cave; it's simply a matter of time. And the Trib will have more money to hand out big bonuses.

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