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DirecTv Lines Up Local TV Rights

DirecTv has reached multi-year retransmission agreements with NBC and ABC to carry each network’s owned and operated affiliate stations in its local-to-local TV channel packages.

Under the deal, DirecTv has the right to carry 10 ABC-owned stations, representing 24 percent of total U.S. television households, and 13 NBC-owned stations, representing 28 percent of U.S. TV homes.

At the same time, DirecTv said it will carry SoapNet, the new Disney/ABC Cable Networks’ 24-hour soap opera channel, while DirecTv has ordered a new spot-beam satellite that eventually will be used to expand its local-TV reach into additional markets.

The retransmission consent gives DirecTv the right to broadcast signals from 10 ABC-owned stations: WABC-TV (New York); KABC-TV (Los Angeles); WLS-TV (Chicago); WPVI-TV (Philadelphia); KGO-TV (San Francisco); KTRK-TV (Houston); WTVD (Raleigh-Durham, N.C.); KFSN-TV (Fresno, Calif.); WJRT-TV (Flint, Mich.); and WTVG (Toledo, Ohio).

Six of the 10 ABC stations are located in the top 11 U.S. markets.

Ten of NBC’s 13 owned-and-operated stations are located in the top 20 U.S. markets.

DirecTv so far has started local-TV station broadcasting into the Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., markets.

The satellite provider said it will continue to expand its local-TV service throughout the remainder of the year and 2000 to include additional markets where NBC and ABC own stations. DirecTv said it will offer local channels in up to 24 major metropolitan markets.

With the ABC and NBC agreements, DirecTv has secured retransmission deals with three of the four major broadcast networks. DirecTv has previously announced an agreement to carry Fox stations.

Meanwhile, DirecTv said it ordered a new spot-beam satellite from its sister company Hughes Space & Communications to help expand its reach with local-into-local TV packages, and to address the must-carry legislation that the DBS system must comply with beginning in 2002.

The must-carry provision was included in the new satellite home viewers’ law, requiring DirecTv and EchoStar to phase in carriage of all local broadcast stations in any market it chooses to serve with local network TV signals via satellite.

The spot-beam satellite (called DirecTV-4S) is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2001 from DirecTv’s orbital slot at 101 degrees.

The new SoapNet channel, which was announced as part of DirecTv’s deal with ABC, will offer the satellite service’s subscribers a specialized soap opera channel with 24 hours of programs.

Content includes same-day telecasts of the top-rated ABC Daytime soap operas, as well as ABC’s former classic soap, Ryan’s Hope, and some of the most popular prime-time serial dramas from Warner Bros. such as Knots Landing.