Hearst's 29 TV stations issued notices Saturday to viewers that they could potentially lose signals if the TV group is not able to reach a retrans agreement with DirecTV.
The deal expires Dec. 31 and there was no renewal agreement at press time, according to a Hearst spokesman. He called the notices a courtesy to viewers in case a deal can't be reached.
He declined to characterize the negotiations, but the options are that a deal will be struck, no deal but an extension granted, as happens frequently though not as frequently enough for the FCC and Congress, or the signals could go dark on DirecTV.
All 29 stations are impacted. They are predominately CBS and ABC affiliates with CW duopolies in some markets. The largest markets affected are Boston (Nielsen DMA #7), Tampa (#14), Orlando (#19) and Sacramento (#20).
Time Warner Cable and Sinclair, which were the players in a high-profile retrans battle at the end of last year, are back in the spotlight with the expiration their year-extension on a deal, with no new deal in hand.
Last week, FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said the FCC would issue a proposed rulemaking on retransmission consent rule changes early next year, and at the same time appeared to warn current retrans negotiators that it would be monitoring them for the impact of impasses on consumers.
"We will pay close attention to...future developments in the marketplace," he said. "Are the disruptions of the last year an anomaly -perhaps just a sign of friction as prices move to a new level? Or will we see a continuing pattern of disputes that threaten viewers' access to programming?"