Unless an agreement is reached today, area DirecTV customers won't be watching the New Year's Day parade on WTOC Channel 11.
WTOC's parent company, Raycom Media, is in the midst of negotiating a contract with DirecTV to allow them to broadcast Raycom channels, said WTOC News Director Janet Smith.
If an agreement over the amount paid by DirecTV to Raycom Media is not reached by midnight tonight, customers of DirecTV may experience a temporary period where WTOC is not available. However, even if the signal is dropped after today, negotiations will continue and the service could resume if an agreement is reached, she said.
The disagreement centers around the amount of money paid to Raycom for DirecTV to broadcast its signals. The negotiations concern several Raycom Media stations, not just WTOC, she said. "We're working out what the company needs to pay us to broadcast our signal."
"They are still talking daily," Smith said Thursday. All other companies carrying Raycom's signals have successfully negotiated contracts; DirecTV is the only company still in discussion with Raycom. Negotiations are in place with Dish Network, Comcast, Northland Cable and all other area cable systems, she said.
A representative of DirecTV was not immediately available for comment Thursday, and questions sent via email were not immediately answered.
Smith said Raycom Media is asking "a fair market price" to allow DirecTV to broadcast the signal. "They want to use a signal that costs us millions to produce."
The battle over terms is a corporate issue, and does not involve anyone employed by WTOC, she said. "Negotiations are being handled by our corporate team in Montgomery, Al. for all Raycom owned/operated stations (with local-into-local) service nationwide."
Information about the situation is available on WTOC's website, www.wtoc.com. The station intends to make its local news live on the website should the channel be dropped from DirecTV.
And, DirecTV won't be able to bypass the negotiations and allow network programming from another station, according to the website.
"There are rules in place to prevent DirecTV from showing network broadcasts without the local broadcasters' programming. However, we are doing everything we can to ensure that we don't get to that point. If we do, viewers should remember that they can always get our programming over the Web or by using an over-the-air TV antenna," according to the website.
WTOC officials remind customers that DirecTV already charges customers for local channels, and the Savannah station only receives a fraction of that charge.
"Our station receives a tiny percentage of that revenue and we do not believe that it is a fair arrangement, given the amount of time our station invests in producing and securing that programming," read the statement on the website. "Frankly, rates should not increase just because DirecTV starts fairly compensating our station for the money it makes by using our signal, our news and our programming."
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 912-489-9414.