Sinclair has begun to warn customers that DirecTV will likely drop its stations on Feb. 28.
DirecTV's latest effort to negotiate a new carriage agreement with a content provider is more heated than usual, with the satellite giant accusing Sinclair Broadcast Group of employing scare tactics in order to get its way.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has ties to 87 television stations in 47 markets, is warning its customers that DirecTV is likely to drop the stations from its roster when the companies' current carriage agreement ends on Feb. 28.
While negotiations have been ongoing for "quite some time," Sinclair said in a statement to its viewers that it "does not expect" a new agreement to be reached by the expiration date.
The company's television group reaches approximately 27.1 percent of U.S. television households, according to its website.
"Although Sinclair does not believe that it is constructive to negotiate its private business relationships in public, Sinclair is informing the public in advance of the end of carriage because it is aware of the impact on a segment of the public from the end of the relationship between the Sinclair stations and DirecTV," Sinclair's statement reads.
DirecTV, however, insists that it's engaged in "productive discussions" with Sinclair and accuses the broadcaster of using scare tactics.
"We're engaged in productive discussions with Sinclair Broadcast Group to retain their local stations in the DirecTV line-up," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "Our customers can be assured that neither DirecTV nor Sinclair has any intention of allowing the disruption of their local stations. These are the same unnecessary threats, posing as warnings, that Sinclair has made to frighten customers of other pay TV providers."
"We will compensate Sinclair fairly, but our customers should not be forced to pay more than twice as much for the same programs that remain available completely free of charge over the air and online," DirecTV said.
DirecTV has a storied history of carriage disputes, which have been resolved to varying degrees of satisfaction. The company was locked in a hairy dispute with Viacom that saw Viacom channels briefly blocked from DirecTV's roster. That dispute was eventually resolved.
On the other hand, Sinclair has issued similar warnings regarding other providers in the past, including Dish Network last August, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in January 2011, and Verizon FiOS in December 2011. In each of those cases and others, its stations remained on the carriers uninterrupted.
Carriage of Sinclair stations was briefly interrupted on Mediacom in 2006, though that was resolved after the U.S. Senate urged the FCC to help spur a resolution. In October 2009, Mediacom filed a complaint with the FCC alleging that Sinclair had violated its duty to negotiate retransmission consent in good faith for carriage of certain Sinclair stations.
A spokeswoman for Sinclair has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment.