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DirecTV customers in San Diego lose KFMB-TV CBS Channel 8

DirecTV customers in San Diego lose KFMB-TV CBS Channel 8
DirecTV customers in San Diego missed the Chargers' first preseason game Thursday due to a dispute over retransmission fees. Pictured: Chargers linebacker Donald Butler (56) takes the field before the Thursday game in San Diego. (Denis Poroy / AP)

An estimated 150,000 DirecTV customers in the San Diego region have lost access to the highly rated CBS-affiliate television station KFMB-TV Channel 8.

The family-owned TV station's signal was removed from the satellite giant's systems at 5 p.m. Thursday – two hours before a preseason NFL contest that saw the San Diego Chargers defeat the Dallas Cowboys.

"In our 66-year history, we have never had a blackout before this," Pat Nevin, KFMB-TV's vice president and general manager, said in an interview Friday with The Times. "This is the first time."

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The television station is owned by an independent broadcasting company, Midwest Television, which is based in San Diego. The company also owns two radio stations, including KFMB-AM 760.

San Diego County residents who receive TV service from another pay-TV provider were not affected by the outage. Ratings show the Chargers football game was the most-watched TV event in San Diego on Thursday night.

The dispute between DirecTV and KFMB centers on how much DirecTV must pay to retransmit the station's signal to its customers.

DirecTV's carriage agreement with Midwest Television had expired at the end of June, but it was extended to allow the two sides time to hammer out a new agreement. A tentative deadline had been set for Thursday evening.

"We thought we were heading toward an agreement," Nevin said. "This came as a complete surprise. We are as frustrated and upset as our viewers are. This definitely has had an impact on all of us here in San Diego."

With no new agreement in place, DirecTV was no longer authorized to continue carrying the top-rated station, and so it took down the signal.

"We intend to get KFMB back for our customers very soon and apologize for this temporary disruption," DirecTV said in a statement.

The satellite company indicated the hang-up was over KFMB's proposed increase in the amount of retransmission fees that it charges.

Local broadcasters increasingly depend on retransmission fees from pay-TV providers to help pay for programming. TV stations owned by huge media companies have been demanding retransmission fees of as much as $2 per month per subscriber home in their coverage area.

But KFMB, a small operation, is asking for an increase of "less than 2 cents per day per subscriber home," Nevin said.

DirecTV, which was acquired last month by telecommunications giant AT&T,  declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations. The dispute appears to be the first major flare-up since AT&T took ownership of DirecTV, based in El Segundo.

Disputes over retransmission fees have been playing out across the country in recent years. There have been more than 60 blackouts so far this year, according to the industry organization, American Television Alliance.

There were 107 outages in 2014, the group said.

With more than 1 million TV homes, San Diego ranks 28th in television markets in the U.S., according to Nielsen.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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