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Cubs Games, Rest of WGN Back on DirecTV

By Anna Marie Kukec | 04/04/2012

DirecTV subscribers can watch the Cubs' 2012 season opener Thursday on WGN-TV after all.

Tribune Broadcasting announced this evening that it has reached an agreement with DirecTV that will enable DirecTV subscribers to avoid any further disruption in service.

"We are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement with DirecTV and to return our valuable news, entertainment and sports programming to DirecTV subscribers," said Nils Larsen, Tribune Broadcasting president. "On behalf of Tribune Broadcasting, I want to thank viewers across all of our markets for their support, understanding and patience during the negotiating process — we truly regret the service interruptions of the last several days."

The Tribune on Sunday pulled WGN programming from DirecTV after negotiations broke down over fees. Subscribers woke up to find they no longer had WGN programming, including sports. On Monday, California-based DirecTV filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against the Tribune, saying the media company failed to negotiate in "good faith." The Tribune said it never reached any agreement with DirecTV regarding fees and decided to pull its programming.

"We're pleased that Tribune and their creditors now recognize that all DIRECTV wanted from day one was to pay fair market rates for their channels," said Derek Chang, an executive vice president with DirecTV. "It's unfortunate that Tribune was willing to hold our customers hostage in an attempt to extract excessive rates, but in the end we reached a fair deal at market rates similar to what we originally agreed to on March 29."

Some media indicated that WCIU-TV, Channel 26, would carry the Cubs game Thursday. But they later backtracked, saying WGN officials told them it wasn't so.

That left a lot of subscribers in the lurch and seeking alternatives.

Experts at Glenview-based Abt Electronics & Appliances pitched getting a new antenna on the roof or chimney.

"We typically see an uptick in antenna installations in the spring. That being said, I have noticed a higher-than-normal surge this spring to do rooftop antennas," said Abt custom audio video design Manager Todd Shuster. "I have a feeling that we will continue to get more and more requests as baseball season is upon us."

The quality of the antenna broadcast is higher than what is provided via DirecTV, Dish Network and cable systems, said Abt custom audio video systems Designer Abe Abrahamian.

"Why? Because it is uncompressed and transmitted through the air directly to antennas homeowners have," Abrahamian said. "The satellite and cable companies compress the signal and then transmit. When the satellite and cable signals are received by the satellite and cable boxes, they are then uncompressed. This affects the overall picture quality."

Consumers could choose a basic indoor antenna ranging from $13 to $70 and set it up themselves. Or they can opt for rooftop antennas. For example, those from Winegard range from $175 to $350. The rooftop installation fee is an additional $299.

Champps Americana sports bar in Lincolnshire, a DirecTV subscriber, tried an antenna this week, but apparently the signal was too weak, said General Manager Mike Runyan. Champps also has locations in Lombard, Schaumburg, Skokie and Orland Park.

Runyan said the chain had been considering a switch to Dish Network. "We've been going back and forth on what to do because of the extra expense," he said.

You could forget about the antenna and bars and just get away for a while.

The Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, 1 W. Wacker Drive, is offering a Cubs Opening Day special for guests and fans alike on Thursday. Discounted rates on its "Escape! Family Package" have rooms starting at $159 a night.

The package includes an overnight stay, complimentary breakfast for kids 12 and under at the Great Street Chicago restaurant and complimentary access to the health club, indoor pool — and in-room and lobby TVs.

Meanwhile, DirecTV subscribers in affected markets will again have access to prime-time entertainment programming like "American Idol," "Glee" and "New Girl," on the Tribune's Fox affiliates, and "One Tree Hill," "Vampire Diaries," and "Gossip Girl" on its CW affiliates.

The deal is good news for Major League Baseball officials, too.

"It really stinks for the fans when there's a contract dispute like this," said John Blundell, a league spokesman.

Copyright © 2012 Paddock Publications, Inc.

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