Sens. Brown, Kerry intercede in DirecTV-Sunbeam dispute

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While it's unlikely that Sunbeam Television would take the chance of blocking DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) subscribers from watching the feed of Super Bowl 46 on its NBC affiliate in Boston, Massachusetts Senators Scott Brown and John Kerry aren't taking any chances. With the New England Patriots set to play the New York Giants in the Feb. 5 championship game, the legislators are attempting to force the companies to settle the retransmission-consent dispute that has left Boston viewers without the feeds for Sunbeam's NBC affiliate WHDH-TV and The CW affiliate WLVI-TV since Jan. 13.

"I am concerned that my constituents in Boston have become leverage in a business negotiation," Sen. Brown wrote in a letter to DirecTV CEO Mike White and Sunbeam Television president Edmund Ansin on Friday. "It is outrageous that subscribers would pay hundreds of dollars a year for service and not get to watch the Super Bowl, the biggest television event of the year," he added.

Sunbeam also pulled the feed from its Miami Fox affiliate WSVN-TV from DirecTV on Jan. 13, but it temporarily restored the channel on Sunday so Miami viewers could watch the NFC Championship game on Fox. DirecTV expects that Sunbeam will also restore the feed for WSVN in Boston for the Super Bowl.

"Since Sunbeam TV returned the FOX NFL playoff game to Miami fans today, we look forward to also watching with all of our New England customers as the Patriots play for the NFL championship in Super Bowl XLVI on NBC on February 5," DirecTV said in a statement released Sunday night.

Boston viewers will not have trouble finding a place to watch the Super Bowl. It's likely that Sunbeam will allow DirecTV to carry the Super Bowl in Boston, as it did the NFC Championship in Miami. NBC is also streaming the entire game online for the first time.

But the dispute will draw more scrutiny at the FCC and Congress of retransmission-consent rules, which could result in negative consequences for Sunbeam, DirecTV and other broadcasters and pay TV distributors.

For more:
- see the letter from Sen. Brown
- Broadcasting & Cable has this story

Related articles:
Sunbeam caves to DirecTV, will let subscribers watch NFC Championship game
Boston station uses Super Bowl to squeeze DirecTV
Retransmission spat leaves DirecTV, FiOS subs without NFL games