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.

KSL–Salt Lake Broadcast to Cease in the McCammon, Downey and Lava areas.

Local television broadcasting networks like KPVI (Idaho Falls – Pocatello) have specific rights under the FCC Network non-duplication rules which protect them from another television station broadcasting their affiliate network programming within their designated area.

Recently, the new owners of the Idaho NBC affiliate, KPVI, have requested that we remove KSL from our cable channel lineup in certain towns, since they have exclusive broadcast rights for NBC within a designated footprint market area.  As a result, we regret to inform you that we can no longer carry KSL–Salt Lake in the McCammon, Downey and Lava areas.

We will cease broadcasting of KSL – Salt Lake on 10/15/2014 in those areas.  We understand that you may not agree with this FCC rule but we are required to honor it.

http://live.ksl.com/ online streaming interface

http://live.ksl.com/ online streaming interface

The good news is you can now stream KSL live online at http://live.ksl.com/.  So, you can still watch your favorite Salt Lake City news and local shows online. Contact us to get the internet speed you need to get the best streaming experience.

And of course the nationally syndicated shows that NBC carries will still be available to watch on KPVI.

We truly appreciate you choosing Direct Communications for your services and appreciate your understanding.

Viacom Negotiation Update

Update: 4/2/2014

Lenexa, KS and New York, NY – April 1, 2014 – The National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) and Viacom reached an agreement to renew carriage of Viacom’s media networks by NCTC’s more than 800 member companies. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Judy Meyka, NCTC Executive Vice President of Programming, said: “Viacom is and remains one of NCTC’s largest content providers and we are pleased to have reached an agreement that will provide opportunities for our members to distribute their content over multiple platforms.”
“We’re grateful to have reached an agreement with NCTC that will allow millions of viewers nationwide to continue to enjoy our programming,” said Denise Denson, Executive Vice President, Content Distribution and Marketing, Viacom. “We commend NCTC for collaborating with Viacom to reach a fair deal that puts viewers first.”
About the National Cable Television Cooperative
The National Cable Television Cooperative, Inc. (NCTC) is a Kansas not‐for‐profit corporation that operates as a programming and hardware purchasing organization for its member companies who own and operate cable systems throughout the U.S. and its territories. NCTC seeks to maximize current and future opportunities to ensure the profitability, competitive stature and long term sustainability of its member companies.

Original Post 3/27/2014:

Multinational entertainment company Viacom, which is the parent owner of networks:  BET, Comedy Central, Spike, TV Land, CMT, MTV, VH1, and Nickelodeon, is threatening to shut down their network feeds to most rural cable companies at the end of March 2014, unless their demands for huge prices increases are met by the rural cable industry.

Direct Communications obtains all cable TV content through a national rural co-op, The National Cable Television Cooperative — which represents more than 1000 small rural cable operators, and negotiates all our programming deals. NCTC is trying to negotiate with Viacom, but they have informed us that they are not hopeful that an agreement will be reached due to Viacom being unwilling to budge on pricing demands.

Programming fees account for the bulk of our customers’ monthly cable TV bill.  Our goal is to protect our customers from significant programming fee increases. Viacom is demanding an increase that is 40 times the rate of inflation over last year’s fees for the same channels you get today – even if you don’t watch them.

We, as a small company that serves rural customers, feel that Viacom may be out of touch with demand for their programs in rural America, since surveys of our customers in rural Idaho have consistently ranked programs like MTV, VH1, BET, and Comedy Central (which are mostly targeted to urban youth) among the least-watched of any cable networks on the Directcom channel line-up.

Our existing agreement with Viacom expires on March 31, 2014. Although NCTC is working to negotiate a fair price for these networks after March 31, Viacom may turn off their networks or require us to remove all their channels until a new agreement is secured. For more information, please call us at 208 548 2345 or check back regularly on our facebook site, facebook.com/Directcom or  blog.directcom.com


Here are links to some of the national news stories about NCTC’s negotiations:

Multichannel News, March 25: Small Ops Gird for Battle

Los Angeles Times, March 26: Viacom in Fight with Small Ops

CBS MoneyWatch, March 26: Cable Customer could lose Viacom