After five months without KOLR-10, you would think DirecTV customers would be thinking about a financial discount or rebate.
Since Oct. 21, customers unable or unwilling to find other options, such as an indoor antenna, have gone without some Chiefs football games, “60 Minutes,” “NCIS” and, now, March Madness.
That’s what Gary Sosniecki, of Lebanon, asked for a price break during the NFL season.
“This had happened before, and I thought the dispute would work itself out,” Sosniecki tells me.
It didn’t. Today, Mission Broadcasting, parent company of KOLR-10, remains in a contract dispute with DirecTV, which provides programming via satellite.
As a result, here we are with our indoor antennae, alternate streaming services and a deep-rooted feeling of being hosed by corporate America.
It’s not just DirecTV; it’s DISH too
In reporting this column, I learned that in January, the DISH Network, another satellite provider, no longer carries Mission Broadcasting (which includes KOLR-10) from its offerings. This also is over a contract dispute.
Tom Tyrer, a spokesman for DirecTV, tells me that once an existing contract expires, DirecTV is prohibited by law from offering content from that station, such as KOLR-10. In other words, he says, DirecTV did not “drop” KOLR-10.
As I’ve asked in prior columns on this topic, when will Congress address this?
It’s occurring frequently across the nation: a satellite company and a broadcast company can’t agree on a new contract after the existing one expires and it’s the little guy, the individual customer, who is short-changed.
Are you out there Congressman Eric Burlison?
Like many others, I paid $40 for an indoor antenna so I could receive KOLR-10 over the air. It works fine for the most part, other than a strange quirk. I no longer can turn off my closed-captioning. At least it’s in English.
The reality, of course, is that I’m not suffering a major hardship. I don’t plan to go to Kyiv, for example, to start my “How Can I Live Without KOLR-10?” lecture series.
Still, it irks me that I pay for something I don’t get because two big corporations can’t reach an agreement
Listening to Chiefs on radio didn’t cut it
Sosniecki was thinking the same thing in the fall — with the Chiefs and playoffs in mind.
“I listened to a couple of games on the radio,” he says.
But enough was enough, and radio play-by-play wasn’t near enough.
He called KOLR-10 to complain. He quickly was led by pre-recorded prompts to the DirecTV number.
In other words, KOLR-10’s position seems be that if you’re sore about this situation, then call the other guy.
I re-traced Sosniecki’s phone journey Thursday morning. I called the station. Here’s what KOLR-10 tells you via recorded message that I recorded:
“DirecTV and now DISH, as well, have removed KOLR-10 from their lineups.
(Note: DirecTV contends it would be illegal to air KOLR-10 content without a contract.)
“This impacts many local TV stations across the nation and includes affiliates of every major network.
“DirecTV and DISH have taken away your KOLR-10 news, NFL and college football and your favorite prime time shows.
“Our company continues to negotiate in the hopes that both DirecTV and DISH will begin negotiating fairly.
“DirecTV customers call 800-531-5000.
“DISH customers call 800-333-3474.
“Demand that your satellite company return KOLR10 to their lineup.”
Is there a concern people will forget about KOLR-10?
I sent emails to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also left a message for Mike Spruill, vice president and general manager of KOLR-10, KOZL and KRBK.
I wanted to ask how long this stalemate can continue before people permanently change their viewing habits and forget KOLR-10 and CBS programming ever existed.
He did not call me back.
Tyrer, with DirecTV, is the only one who responded. He informed me of a lawsuit his company filed just this week against Mission Broadcasting, Nexstar Media Group and White Knight Broadcasting.
According to Nexstar’s website, KOLR-10 operates under various local agreements with Nexstar Media Inc. and stations KOZL and KRBK. All three stations have grown revenue share by integrating Nexstar sales systems and inventory management, according to the website.
The third defendant, White Knight Broadcasting, owns three stations and is based in Lafayette, Louisiana.
The lawsuit alleges the three broadcasters illegally conspired to increase content costs for free over-the-air TV.
In a press release Tryer sent me, the fees charged by broadcast stations to satellite distributors like DirecTV have increased more than 5,000 percent in 17 years.
Customer expressed frustration, but remained polite
OK, back to Sosniecki, who was re-directed to DirecTV.
“I was very polite,” he says. “I told them I was frustrated that you can’t come to a solution, and that I was going to do something. I didn’t know what.”
He never threatened to cancel. He was transferred to a second person at DirecTV, who reviewed his billing history with the company.
Sosniecki is a longtime customer who pays for additional programming, such as the Extra Innings package for major league baseball, so he can follow his beloved Chicago Cubs. He grew up outside of Chicago.
The bottom line: He was given a $50 monthly discount because he is not getting KOLR-10.
“I have a friend who was on DirecTV, and I think he got an even better discount than I did,” Sosniecki tells me.
I suspect Sosniecki and his friend are not alone.
After a discussion with Managing Editor Brittany Meiling, it was decided that when contacting anyone at DirecTV, I would first identify myself as a reporter, even though I also am a customer. (It’s unethical to conceal your identity while news gathering, many journalism organizations say.) Also, I should not ask for a price cut and then write a first-hand account of it.
Here’s what I asked via email
Here’s what I asked DirecTV and DISH via email:
What’s your policy on rebates or cost reductions for customers when DirecTV drops a station or company during contract negotiations?
Why would one customer get a reduction in price and another not?
Must a customer first complain to get a price reduction?
Tyrer did not directly respond to the above questions. He informed me of the lawsuit filed this week and pointed out that since the blackout of KOLR-10 customers have been able to go to DIRECTVPromise.com to claim a $10 rebate.
This is Pokin Around column No. 104.