Kerry warns Sunbeam, DirecTV of consequences from Super Bowl blackout

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Urging Sunbeam Television and DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) to guarantee Boston viewers that they will not miss the Super Bowl, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) warned the companies that they could face a backlash if they do not settle their retransmission-consent dispute.

John Kerry

Kerry

"If people in Boston miss the Super Bowl this year because of this dispute, I can assure you that it will lead more and more people to throw up their hands and say, 'a pox upon both of their houses.' This is an outcome we can and should avoid," Kerry wrote in a letter Tuesday to Sunbeam president Edmund Ansin and DirecTV CEO Michael White.

Kerry noted that the FCC is conducting a rulemaking proceeding which could result in regulations that would prevent broadcasters and pay TV distributors from blocking access to major sporting events. "I cannot force you to reach a resolution, but I can and will strongly urge you not to use the Super Bowl as leverage toward resolution and I will continue to work to urge the FCC to ensure that access to major live events for hundreds of thousands or millions of people not become a recurring tool for leverage in these negotiations," Kerry wrote in the letter.

Sunbeam pulled the feeds from its stations in Boston and Miami from DirecTV, after its retransmission-consent contract expired. While Sunbeam restored the feed last Sunday for Miami Fox affiliate WSVN-TV so DirecTV viewers could watch the NFC Championship football game on Fox, it hasn't yet said if it will do the same for Boston NBC affiliate WHDH-TV on Super Bowl Sunday. Officials at Sunbeam couldn't be reached for comment.

DirecTV said in a prepared statement that it is waiting for confirmation from Sunbeam that it will accept Kerry's proposal that the companies guarantee restoration of the WHDH feed during the Super Bowl. "DirecTV continues to stand ready to put all three of Sunbeam's stations back on immediately while we negotiate so that customers in both cities can receive their local programming and so that customers in the Boston area can enjoy the upcoming Super Bowl," DirecTV said in the statement.

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