KHQ Newsroom

DIRECTV, KHQ Incorporated, NBC Right Now and Cowles Montana Media are in an on-going retransmission contract dispute resulting in the decision to discontinue the DIRECTV carriage of our television stations.

The retransmission agreement with DIRECTV expired June 30th, 2019. We continue to effort good faith negotiations. To date, we have completed deals with every other satellite and cable TV provider with which we do business.

We highly regret the inconvenience this will cause to DIRECTV subscribers who want to continue watching local news, weather and sports on this station, along with our popular entertainment programming, including NFL football. We wish to remind these subscribers that numerous other means exist for receiving our television station signals, with the easiest being free over-the-air with an antenna. Other providers include Dish Network, YouTube TV, Hulu, Sony Playstation Vue, and local cable TV companies.

We suggest you contact DIRECTV by calling them at 1-800-531-5000 to voice your desire to have the local station back on.

Answers to some of the questions you may have about this matter are addressed below.  We appreciate your understanding and patience. 

Q: What is retransmission consent?

A: Retransmission consent is a process created by federal law whereby cable and satellite companies negotiate with the owners of television stations for the right to carry those stations on their systems.

Q: Can television stations require cable or satellite companies to carry them?

A: Yes, they can by making something referred to as a must-carry election, which would then require carriage for a three-year period.

Q: Why didn't the station elect must-carry for its stations?

A: The stations chose not to elect must-carry in order to have the right to negotiate with cable and satellite companies to receive certain things, such as compensation and channel position, which it would not receive by making a must-carry election. As a result of the station’s retransmission consent election, the relationship between the stations and DIRECTV is essentially the same as the typical commercial relationship that exists between any wholesaler attempting to sell its product to a retailer so that the retailer can then sell the product to consumers in its market.

Q: Why should DIRECTV have to pay to carry a television station?

A: Local TV stations pay millions of dollars each year to buy high-quality programming and to produce important informational programs, such as local news, weather and sports programming. It is just standard business practice that companies like DIRECTV pay for the right to resell programming to their subscribers. DIRECTV pays for every other channel of commercial programming on their lineup. Why wouldn't they pay for ours?

Q: But aren't television stations available for free over-the-air?

A: Local TV stations are available over-the-air at no cost with the use of an antenna. However, this doesn't mean that satellite companies should have the right to resell our signal - and charge you for receiving it - without properly compensating us. 

Q: Don't television stations benefit from carriage on cable and satellite systems in the form of larger audiences and increased advertising revenues?

A: All channels benefit from being carried on a cable or satellite system including local TV stations as well as cable networks which are also advertiser supported. The station is simply asking to be treated fairly and compensated based on the popularity of our programming, just like every other programming channel on DIRECTV's lineup.

Q: Doesn’t the station make its money through advertising sales? So why also charge for retransmission consent?

A: It is true that a primary source of revenues comes from advertising sales. However, the station is entitled to be compensated fairly when another company uses our content and re-sells it to the public.

Q: Is this just a dispute about money?

A: Although the station does not believe it is productive to negotiate its private business relationships in the public, the inability to reach agreement with DIRECTV is about much more than just money.

Q: Is it fair to characterize the stations as "pulling its signal" from DIRECTV?

A: The station did not "pull its signal" from DIRECTV. Rather, DIRECTV is "refusing to carry" the stations. This is simply the case of DIRECTV insisting on unreasonable business terms and our stations refusing to accept those terms.

Q: How long is this dispute likely to last?

A: It is impossible to answer this question accurately. DIRECTV makes decisions on these contracts with its Wall Street investors in mind, not our local customers.

Q: Won't DIRECTV just bring in another station from another market with the same programming? 

A: Business contracts, the law and FCC regulations severely restrict DIRECTV’s ability to do this. Local TV station programming contracts generally provide for market exclusivity (including network primetime and sports programming). Additionally, local programming the stations produces, such as local news, wouldn't be available from another, out-of-market station. 

Q: Doesn't this punish the consumer?

A: Consumers have other means of obtaining the station, such as Dish Network, OTT, over-the-air, and from local cable or telephone companies and so, while the station recognizes and apologizes for the inconvenience associated with switching providers, no significant detriment to the consumer will result from DIRECTV’s failure to carry the station.

Q: Isn’t this just about greed?

A: No. It’s about a local business working to bring you the highest quality news, emergency, sports, weather and entertainment programming that we can. Given that we spend millions of dollars each year to buy and produce high-quality programming, it is only right and fair that DIRECTV compensate us fairly for our costs, especially since they are re-selling our content to their subscribers. In addition, our disagreement with DIRECTV is related to other material matters besides the amount our stations are paid.

Q: Won’t this cost get passed on to the consumer?

A: That is a question for DIRECTV to answer. They may pass these costs on to their subscribers or they could choose just to reduce the profits they make. Alternatively, they could negotiate to reduce the fees they pay for programming which is far less popular than the programming provided by the station.