KBTX DIRECTV UPDATE - Read Comments for Updates

DIRECTV UPDATE:  Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On a personal note:  my sincere apologies for the delay in updating information related to DirecTV.  Between vacations and other pressing issues at KBTX, I’m laying it out there – I’ve done a poor job of updating the status of this issue.

Let’s cut to the bottom line, then I’ll share some background information and results of calls from viewers who have spoken to someone at DirecTV.

When will KBTX be available on DirecTV once homes are “upgraded” to only one dish on the M-PEG 4 platform?

Answer:  We are unsure because we can’t get answers from DirecTV.  We know the signal KBTX now provides to Direct is scheduled to be connected to DirecTV’s test site Thursday, August 6th.  A launch date for KBTX should be set soon after. 

Now you know exactly what we know from DirecTV.

Here’s the dangerous part:  details of what we were previously told by DirecTV. In our “full disclosure effort, this is only what we’ve heard, and we’ve heard a lot.  If there was a “guess” for launch on Direct’s, it would be between August 12th and 28th.

To add to the confusion, here is what one viewer received from DirecTV TODAY (Wednesday, August 5, 2009):

Subject--------------------------------------------------------------RE: KBTX - "local swap" [Reference #: 090729]
Response (Aurora M. - 100115079) - 08/05/2009 09:26 AM
Thanks for writing again. I'm sorry to hear about the frustration this issue had caused however, KBTX will not be available on any of our advanced (MPEG-4) equipment.
Thanks again for writing.
Aurora M. – 100115079  DIRECTV Customer Service

What has KBTX done to deliver our signal to DirecTV?

Answer:  To deliver a reliable signal to DirecTV at their new location north of Waco, we contracted with AT&T to install fiber between the old receive site in Waco and the new one.  The old receive site was the location for what’s called MPEG-2 (2-dish installation at your home that was required to pick up “local” Waco-Temple-Bryan stations).  The new receive site is MPEG-4 (1-dish “upgrade” causing viewers to lose KBTX temporarily).  This installation was completed Tuesday, July 21st.

Why is it taking so long?

Answer:  We share this frustration.  As hard to believe as it may be, KBTX found out about the re-location from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 from a local retail installer of satellite television through a simple phone call to ME early one morning.  That’s how we found out.  DirecTV decided KBTX would no longer be carried.  We were not notified by Direct.  DirecTV had moved all Waco-Temple signals to the location where the new MPEG-4 receive site was constructed.  KBTX was not part of that move because our signal is not strong enough in Waco proper.  Conversely, Waco signals are not strong enough here in Bryan-College Station.  KBTX was sending our signal to the old MPEG-2 through special equipment.  When the location for local stations like KBTX moved and they couldn’t pick up KBTX, they just dropped the station.

Here’s the very confusing part of all of this.  When negotiations first started, KBTX asked for the address of the new MPEG-4 location so that we could gather bids and start the fiber process.  We were signing NOTHING to get work done until negotiations were completed with DirecTV.  We simply wanted to have everything READY to go once an agreement was reached, hoping to avoid delays resulting in minimal disruption in receiving KBTX.  DirecTV would not provide the new address so that companies could submit bids for fiber! -  UNTIL an agreement was reached. 

This lack of information caused a huge delay.  Companies like AT&T and other fiber bidders operate aren’t set up to be a “fast track” as you might suspect.  To AT&T’s credit, however, they understood the urgency of this situation and got the install completed MUCH FASTER than anticipated.  For that, we thank AT&T for their quick turnaround on this project.  Sincerely, they went over and beyond for KBTX viewers.

If an agreement was reached, why did DirecTV send out another letter stating that KBTX would no longer be available?

  • Answer:  We have no answer for this except an admission from DirecTV that this was a mistake.  However, during negotiations, we asked that as part of the agreement Direct help themselves AND KBTX by changing the information in the next mailing to state that KBTX would be available at some point after the “upgrade” MPEG-4.  Not only did DirecTV tell us they were unwilling to do that, they sent out false information in a subsequent release!  This caused a wave of additional calls and e-mails to KBTX.  As part of this process, we log all calls and e-mails about this issue.  Once things had settled down, this last wave of letters brought over 400 additional calls or e-mails to KBTX.  452 exactly as of this morning – and counting.


As promised:

Here is a sampling of various explanations DirecTV representatives and installers have said about KBTX and the “upgrade” to MPEG-4 and our response.

“KBTX hasn’t gone digital so we can’t carry their signal.”

  • KBTX went digital in September, 2003.  Earlier this year, we upgraded to full-power digital, jumping from 25,000 watts to 1,000,000 watts.

“KBTX isn’t high-definition.  Call KBTX and find out why they aren’t high-definition.”

  • …and many people did call!  KBTX went high-definition with all CBS programming in September, 2003.  At some point in the future, the amount of available high definition programming will increase.   KBTX carries as much high definition programming as any station in the market, maybe a bit more because of the amount of hi-def programming offered by CBS.  KBTX High-definition programming was offered to DirecTV.  They chose not to carry it.

 “KBTX’s equipment is faulty or they don’t have the right equipment.”

  • KBTX is fortunate to have state-of-the-art equipment necessary to broadcast our signal.  How is it that Dish can carry KBTX and that approximately 15,000 homes receive the signal by antenna?  The only equipment that could be argued as faulty is the General Manager!

To Direct’s credit, in two instances (two is better than none), representatives from Direct told viewers EXACTLY the right story.  We thank those representatives.

This delay in getting KBTX on Direct was especially disturbing when the El Dorado fire broke out last week.  Rural DirecTV customers who depend on KBTX were left in the dark for television coverage during a potentially dangerous situation.  When Direct was insistent Waco stations covered news from the Brazos Valley, it takes one event like El Dorado to drive home the point:  NO THEY DON’T.  And honestly, why should Waco TV stations care?  They have Waco-Temple-Killeen to cover. 


This experience has taken its toll personally and for many of this staff who have responded to all 2000+ communications about this issue.  Thank you for your patience.  All of us were caught in the middle during this process. 

KBTX will never be a perfect organization.  We strive to improve daily, however.  Could we have done a better job covering the El Dorado fire?  Absolutely.  We are de-briefing on that issue, finding ways to improve.  We were late getting on-air live, for one.  Could we have done a better job of covering major storms that rolled through recently?  Absolutely.  We beat ourselves up in these situations, including Bob French, always seeking ways to be faster and quicker with information.  We all hurt at the slightest of missteps.  Luckily, viewers at home don’t notice that.

For criticism and constructive complaints sent our way, we learn from all of them. But in this time of dealing with DirecTV, we were humbled at the attitude of viewers:  our supporters and our nay-sayers.  The overwhelming support did not go unnoticed by this staff and is deeply appreciated. 

This reminds me when Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry as coach of the Dallas Cowboys, right after Jones purchased the Cowboys.  A Washington Redskins fan was interviewed about it.  To paraphrase he responded by saying, “Who does this guy think he is?  We hate the Cowboys, but when you take Tom Landry out, its kinda like you’re messing with family.  It’s not the same anymore.”

Family sticks together.  You voiced your opinion to DirecTV, and again, we thank you.  Once this is done and we are back on MPEG-4, many of you should feel free to revert to your normal avocation: that of a television critic.  We learn from you, and I never thought I’d say this, but I rather miss you.  Some people have turned into being entirely too nice during this debacle with Direct. 

I just wish DirecTV shared the same passion KBTX has for the 200,000+ homes that tune in to this television station from time to time and rely on us for local information.

More updates as we find out.

KBTX DIRECTV UPDATE: Monday, June 22, 2009

KBTX will remain available to DirecTV subscribers. News Three has reached an agreement with the satellite company.

New subscribers and those who "upgraded" to the one dish set-up won't immediately receive KBTX. That's because of an installation delay that must take place before DirecTV can carry our signal. Fiber installation will be completed to deliver a reliable signal to the new DirecTV uplink facility.

Those subscribers with two dishes, will continue to receive News Three as usual until DirecTV discontinues using its old uplink facility, which will happen in the near future.

We want to say thank you to DirecTV, our parent company, Gray Television, and our loyal viewers who expressed their desire to keep watching us.

KBTX General Manager Mike Wright released this statement Monday, "This issue was about making sure over 30,000 homes received news, weather, sports and local information from the Brazos Valley. Advertisers benefit, charitable organizations benefit, all those who count on a strong distribution of their message will benefit, and KBTX is the only media outlet to do that.

This was also an issue of safety. The government designated KBTX as the Emergency Alert System station for this region many years ago; emergencies are different here than in Waco, weather is different, this area is unique.

By definition, this is the 'Waco-Temple-Bryan' market, but Waco stations have little or no news about this area, much less Aggie sports. It isn't their fault, their audience is focused on the area around Waco, Temple and Killeen. 30% of market population lives in and around Brazos County. That's why we cover the Brazos Valley, they cover Central Texas.

This is essentially two markets. However, with over 5500 Aggie households around the Waco area, satellite availability of KBTX in that area is important. We're just glad to get this behind us so that we can continue serving viewers with information that matters to those of us who live here and work here."

KBTX DIRECTV UPDATE: Sunday, June 07, 2009

Thank you for supporting KBTX in our efforts to remain on DirecTV.  After numerous communications between KBTX’s parent company and officials with DirecTV, we remain optimistic that the decision to drop KBTX from the channel line-up can be reversed.  Our last communication with DirecTV was Friday, June 5th. 

While there are some really incredible offers from Suddenlink and Dish because of this situation, you are entitled to make a decision.  Our position is to simply “sit tight” while we continue negotiating.

KBTX takes pride in knowing we have treated this process with full disclosure, letting the customer decide the route that best serves their needs.  So far, this situation has developed exactly as we first reported.  Simply put: if you “upgrade” to one dish vs. the two many of you currently have, at this moment, you will lose KBTX. That’s because of the change in uplink locations for DirecTV local channels, which is an overall “upgrade” to their system.  For now, if Direct tries to schedule you for this upgrade, wait as long as you can.  Current Direct customers with two dishes, however, will continue to receive KBTX.

We expect more information during this coming week. 

The staff of KBTX has personally responded to over 600 calls and e-mails since learning of this impending change on DirecTV.  The response from viewers has been humbling and very affirming for our staff.  It motivates us to take a step back and closer examine how we can do a better job of delivering what you need and expect from KBTX. 

And a word of thanks to DirecTV:  thank you for listening to KBTX, allowing us to familiarize DirecTV with this market.  Thank you for taking into consideration your customers and the importance of availability for local news and information.   All markets are not the same.  Every television station claims that, we understand.  This market, on many levels because of Nielsen designation, is one of only three like it in the country.  It is difficult to understand unless you live here: weather is different because of coastal influence, sports is different because of the Aggie network as well as Sam Houston State, and news from here is generally of no concern to Waco television. 

And as for the various DirecTV service representatives encountered by consumers on the phone, indeed you may hear anything as to why KBTX was to be pulled from service here.  Don’t blame them.  KBTX acknowledges that Direct has made the effort to disseminate accurate information, but the company is huge.  It takes a while.  We have shared background freely with everyone via kbtx.com that is accurate.

So, remain optimistic as we are.  We stay passionate about this cause because we believe in this region and all it has to offer.  News, information and advertiser information from here is important.  It helps strengthen the economy and quality of life.  We, collectively, are worth it. 

Again, to DirecTV and to the consumer base that has responded, thank you.  We look forward to continuing a positive relationship for the years to come.

Mike Wright

General Manager, KBTX Media

KBTX-TV Channel 3 4141 E. 29th Street Bryan, TX 77802 Phone: (979) 846-7777 Fax: (979) 846-1490 News Fax: (979) 846-1888
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