Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
The Triad Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — After an eight-month impasse that kept 180,000 DirecTV customers disconnected from KSL-TV's programming, the two companies reached terms on a contract renewal late Thursday evening.

The blackout was the second in the last three years stemming from issues between the satellite television provider and the Salt Lake NBC affiliate, Ch. 5, though the last dispute in 2015 only stretched for about three weeks.

The agreement means Utah DirecTV subscribers will be able to watch broadcasts of this weekend's general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In a statement, KSL-TV general manager Tanya Vea expressed relief over the stalemate coming to an end.

"We have finalized a deal, and as of (Thursday night) KSL is now back on DirecTV," Vea said. "Thank you for your patience. We appreciate the support through this negotiation."

In response to a Deseret News request for comment from AT&T, DirecTV's parent company, a spokesman for the company only confirmed in a statement that a new agreement had been reached.

"AT&T and Bonneville International have reached a new agreement that resulted in KSL-NBC returning to DirecTV and DirecTV NOW customers’ homes in and around Salt Lake City," the spokesman said.

Both companies serve a "designated market area" that includes the state of Utah and small portions of Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. A KSL-TV representative said the blackout impacted about 20 percent of the station's total market.

As an independent broadcaster, KSL lacks the market share wherewithal in contract negotiations enjoyed by large station conglomerates like Sinclair, Nexstar or Gray that own multiple stations across markets and bring more power to bear in contract discussions with re-transmitters. Conversely, DirecTV has been facing its own fiscal challenges, as have the cable and satellite industries in general, as more customers opt out of pricey cable and satellite contracts in lieu of new streaming services.

According to the company's recent earnings report, DirecTV lost some 403,000 subscribers to its satellite service in the fourth quarter of 2018, while also losing 14 percent, or about 267,000, subscribers to its streaming service, DirecTV Now.

8 comments on this story

Under federal law instituted in the early 90s, cable and satellite providers are obligated to secure retransmission permission from broadcasters. Groups like the National Association of Broadcasters have long claimed that broadcast stations have the highest-rated programming on television and deserve to be fairly compensated for access to their content. Cable and satellite providers have countered with their own assertions that fees to broadcasters are exorbitant and have served to drive up the price of cable and satellite subscriptions.