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NFL fans may be thrown for a loss by TV impasse

Cal Chambers, a DirecTV customer, hardly noticed when his KMVU-TV signal went dark a week ago. Sitcoms aren't his thing, he says.

Now, with the NFL playoffs kicking off today, the retired Erickson Air-Crane electrical worker is paying closer attention.

Northwest Broadcasting, owner of the Medford FOX television affiliate, still hasn't settled its disagreement with the nation's largest satellite television provider, meaning Chambers and hundreds of other NFL football fans could miss out on this month's NFC playoff games, including Sunday's Packers-Eagles game.

Potentially worse yet, FOX is providing exclusive coverage of Super Bowl XLV in Dallas on Feb. 6.

"That's one of the most pivotal games coming up, and we won't be able to get it," said Chambers, who has a rabbit-ears antenna but can't pick up KMVU's signal where he lives. "I can go up to Seven Feathers (casino) in Canyonville."

Mona Cato, who sometimes meets with other Packers fans at Donnelly's Sports Bar at Lava Lanes, said the feud "over the almighty dollar" will cause fans to suffer.

"I have the NFL package, which costs $300 a season," she said. "I usually stay home, but if it is a big game, I want to get together with a bunch of other fans."

She said her son is buying an antenna and will disconnect his set from DirecTV so he can watch the game.

The blackout potentially threatened to leave local sports bars that rely on DirecTV's Sunday NFL Ticket in a lurch, as well, but most of them have taken steps to get the game.

"We put up an antenna on the roof so we will have the Super Bowl or any other game," said Ric Donnelly of Donnelly's Sports Bar.

An employee at Joe's Sports Bar & Grill said the establishment on Roberts Road will pick up the game off Charter Cable, "but the signal is not quite as clear."

While the weekend is more than likely lost for KMVU's DirecTV viewers, there has been movement between the parties.

Northwest Broadcasting's Chief Operations Officer Jon Rand said progress was made Friday when the chief executive officers — Brian Brady of Northwest Broadcasting and Mike White of DirecTV — talked on the phone.

"There are four outstanding issues, and money is one of them," Rand said. "It was actually a huge breakthrough, and I think the stage is set for them to come back to us with a much more creative offer at this point. (White) told our CEO he would have his people back with a revised offer. The sad news for DirecTV customers, however, is they shouldn't expect this will be resolved before the weekend."

Rand said the satellite company's original offer provided "pennies more" than in the agreement that expired Dec. 31.

"With us getting less than 20 cents (a month per subscriber), we thought we should stand up for our rights," he said.

Talk of improved communication, of course, will come as good news to Chambers.

"What I'm really avid about is NASCAR, and FOX carries a lot of NASCAR," Chambers said. "I'm not much for sitcoms and all of that."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.