Due to significant increases in fees by local network broadcasters (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX etc) to rebroadcast (or re-transmit) their programming, Direct Communications, after consulting with our TV customers, made the decision in March of 2015 to drop duplicate Utah and Idaho local channel feeds in order to keep your costs low. Customers in the Salt Lake TV market footprint will now only receive Salt Lake affiliate local channels, and customers in the Idaho Falls/Pocatello footprint will only receive Idaho affiliate local channels. By making this change, Directcom was able to save you several dollars a month on your TV bill.

As a result of the fee increases by the local network affiliates, the Local Network Retransmission fee on your statement changed in March 2015.  For Aberdeen customers the fee was changed to $7.86. For customers in Downey, Bancroft, Lava and McCammon , the fee was changed to $8.89, and $9.42 in Paris, Preston, Georgetown, Montpelier and Fish Haven.

By the end of the week of Sep 1, 2015, customers will see duplicate network affiliates disappear.

The reason for the difference in fees is that customers in different towns will now receive different local channels depending on whether the town is located in the Salt Lake City or Pocatello TV market footprint. Each local affiliate charges a different amount per customer for us to carry their feed of ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC or the CW. Luckily, PBS stations do not yet charge a fee to carry their feeds, and we hope that remains the case forever. Remember that these stations broadcast their channels free over the air in the cities, so we feel that forcing the rural cable companies to pay to re-broadcast these to rural viewers is an unfair and discriminatory business practice, especially since these affiliates don’t invest in broadcast antennas in rural areas, and so most rural customers can’t access these networks over the air with an antenna anyway. We do the work for them to bring you their advertising and programming, and then they charge us for it.

Some TV and satellite providers have simply refused to pay the price increases, and when this happens, end viewers are really the ones who suffer. Customers don’t want to see blackouts while the networks and satellite companies blame each other and see who will blink first.

While in the past, only the Utah local stations were charging a retransmission fee per subscriber, now all of the Idaho locals are also demanding payment, partly because many of them have been sold recently to larger out-of-state corporations. In the good old days, because they were using public airwaves, these local channels were relatively inexpensive to retransmit; sadly, this is no longer the case—they now are demanding fees higher than most cable channels (like History Channel or Discovery Channel) to carry their feeds. Unfortunately, they plan to hike up prices every year for the foreseeable future, or at least until the old cable TV business model is completely unsustainable.

We are always looking for ways to keep costs down on your TV bill. In the past we were proud to be able to offer our customers in southeast Idaho both the Utah and Idaho locals, but  it simply became too costly to keep both the Utah and Idaho local networks on the channel line-up due to new demands and price hikes this year by almost all of the local affiliate owners. If we continued to carry both Salt Lake and Idaho channels, the increase would have been be much greater–about triple the old re-transmission fee amount.

Earlier this year, we sent out a survey asking our TV customers  whether they would prefer us to only provide a single affiliate feed of each of the networks, or pay more to receive both the Salt Lake and Idaho channels. The results were as follows:

Drop duplicate channels to save money–I only need one feed for each network.

Keep both the Utah and Idaho locals–I am willing to pay more to keep both.

A small majority (52% to 48%) of all customers preferred to watch the Utah locals, but we assigned channels according to the FCC licencing footprints.

To see the full results of the survey, click here.

We were especially pleased to see that 71% of Directcom customers reported that the new digital cable picture was “better “or “much better” than the old analog picture. About 19% said it looked about the same.

We sincerely regret that we have to pass some of the increase in network programming costs on to you. Please visit http://www.americantelevisionalliance.org/about-the-issue/ to learn more about these fees and what you can do to help combat the increasing costs to provide cable TV services.

About Brigham Griffin
Brigham Griffin, Marketing Director for Direct Communications, has been with the company since 2005. Brigham has an MBA from the University of Utah, and a BA in Communications from Brigham Young University. He is a Professional in Residence at Utah Valley University, and also serves as an adjunct professor of marketing at Idaho State University.

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