Yesterday, on April Fools’ Day, no less, DirecTV subscribers all over the country woke up to a message on their TV that DirecTV and Tribune Company had not come to a new carriage agreement and as a result 23 Tribune owned local affiliates, and WGN America are no longer carried by DirecTV.
Tribune Company sparked this when they asked for an increase in what DirecTV would have to pay for the privilege to carry these stations. Take a look at the WGN America lineup which includes such exciting offerings as Matlock, Walker Texas Ranger, In the Heat of the Night, one of the many versions of Law and Order and timeless comedy classics like Mad About You, and ’til Death. They have a pair of current popular comedies in South Park and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia though they have to edit out anything that’s actually funny in both of them.
In other words, WGN America is a shitstorm of awful programs.
For years, DirecTV refused to broadcast WGN America in HD because they repeatedly told the Tribune Company that it had too many hours of reruns, and worse, non HD reruns.
So while it’s ridiculous that KTLA, regular old WGN channel 9, and WPIX are off the air, the truth is that WGN America might never come back.
The only programming on that channel that people are actually going to miss is live sports. Nobody is going to miss 30 Rock or How I Met Your Mother reruns.
But WGN America carries Cubs, White Sox and Bulls games to their national audience. The Blackhawks are only shown on local WGN because the NHL TV contract is moronic.
So how much would it suck for those of us who depend on DirecTV to shove sports into our houses, if the Cubs and Bulls games weren’t shown? It would suck a lot.
But we might need to learn to get used to it.
Fact is, that other than sports, WGN America shows nothing that’s worth DirecTV paying for. I mean, other than the WGN News at 9, which is really just 44 minutes of Tom Skilling standing in front of a big cold front.
So how is this any different than before, you ask? DirecTV and Tribune have always come to deals in the past. What’s changed?
What’s changed is that the Tribune never asked DirecTV to pay anything to carry these stations. They felt lucky just to have space on the friggin’ satellite.
They might want to go back to that line of thinking.
Conventional wisdom is that the actual demand for the local affiliates and Cubs, Sox and Bulls will force a deal between the two. But it wouldn’t surprise me if DirecTV balks at paying anything for WGN America, and that Tribune has to throw it in for free to get a deal done. It’s a harsh admission that the “Superstation” is basically irrelevant. It has been for years, but now they’d have to admit it.
It also wouldn’t surprise me if a deal gets done without WGN America in it.
Well, it would surprise me a little. Shit, maybe our old friend Ben Matlock himself can get all folksy and calm things down between DirecTV and Tribune?
The Tribune Company says it “costs a substantial amount of money for us to bid for top-quality programming and invest in high-definition equipment and technology so we can deliver a superior product.”
Oh, so is that why you don’t do it?
One of the reasons Tribune Company is trying to get money out of the carriers is because the number one product they have to offer is about to get really expensive. They no longer own a controlling interest in the Cubs, and the Ricketts family has shown in their shakedown of Mesa, Arizona that they’ll do what it takes to get the best deal for themselves, tradition be damned. A WGN America without the Cubs wouldn’t warrant being carried on any satellite or cable provider. This reeks of them trying to get one last payday before reality sets in, and as a result they’ll have to start fighting these same battles with Comcast, Dish Network, Time Warner, etc.
Great. Now where’s a guy supposed to watch three hours of America’s Funniest Home Videos per day?