Dispute over fees pulls NBC from DirecTV in N.H., as Olympics near

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Published: 7/20/2016 11:41:14 PM

Barely two weeks before the Summer Olympics begin, subscribers to DirecTV in most of New Hampshire have lost access to the network that will show the event, due to a fight over fees involving the NBC affiliate in Boston.

“The owner of this channel has removed it from DirecTV lineup” says a statement shown to subscribers of the satellite system when they try to watch Boston-based WHDH, Channel 7, or WLVI, Channel 56. The stations went dark at midnight Friday.

According to statements from both sides, the dispute involved carriage fees, payments made by DirecTV so that it can carry WHDH programming to satellite subscribers in the station’s broadcast area, which includes much of New Hampshire. There is no indication when the disagreement might end.

WHDH is owned by Sunbeam Television Corp. of Miami. A similar dispute had pulled a Sunbeam station in that city off DirecTV.

The channels can still be seen for free over the air, for those people who still have a broadcast television antenna.

Carriage-fee disputes between networks and satellite or cable television systems have become almost routine in recent years, with Fox pulling itself from Time-Warner Cable in 2010, Viacom pulling its channels such as Nickelodeon from DirecTV in 2012, the Weather Channel getting blacked out on Verizon’s FiOS in 2015 and Dish TV losing content from Tribune Media’s 42 stations just last month.

In fact, in 2012 Sunbeam and DirecTV had a similar standoff that lasted two weeks and almost kept New Hampshire from seeing the Super Bowl.

The disputes have been complicated by a stagnation in the number of paying television subscribers, as more people use streaming media over the internet or smart phones to watch shows.

WHDH faces bigger problems than DirecTV, because it will lose its NBC affiliation in January as the network switches its Boston affiliation to a station that it owns. A lawsuit from Sunbeam trying to block the switch was thrown out by the courts.

WHDH switched from CBS to NBC in 1995 as part of a corporate reshuffle.

DirecTV, which was bought by AT&T in 2014, has almost 20 million subscribers nationwide. Its subscriber numbers for New Hampshire are not available.

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, begin with an opening ceremony on Aug. 5.

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