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DirecTV may drop? Channel 2 Saturday Station's owner seeks deal to avoid going dark

A deal between WGRZ-TV and DirecTV is set to expire this weekend, and local DirecTV subscribers will lose access to programming from the local NBC affiliate if the station's owner, Gannett Co., and the satellite TV provider can't work out a new agreement in time.

WGRZ has a statement on its website warning DirecTV subscribers they will lose access to "Sunday Night Football," "Saturday Night Live" and other popular NBC programs, as well as Channel 2 News and other local offerings, if a new deal isn't reached by tonight.

The deal between the station owner and DirecTV expires at 3 a.m. Saturday, and WGRZ blames the satellite TV provider for the failure to negotiate a new rights agreement.

"Gannett has never had service disruption with a major carrier," Jim Toellner, WGRZ's president and general manager, said in a statement. "However, with [today's] deadline approaching, we have a responsibility to inform our viewers of the possibility of a signal disruption, which is why we have begun running crawls and PSAs on our stations. We will continue to work with DirecTV right up to the deadline."

The station said on its website that Gannett is seeking terms similar to those included in the deal reached last month with DISH Network.

DirecTV is negotiating a new rights agreement with Gannett, which owns 14 NBC affiliates and six CBS affiliates across the country, including in Atlanta, Denver and Washington, D.C., DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said.

"We're in productive negotiations with Gannett. And we have no intention of removing any of their local stations from our programming lineup, since only Gannett can do that," Mercer said.

Late Thursday, Mercer told The News that Gannett rejected DirectTV's request for an extension if negotiations continue past the contract deadline.

This is only the latest standoff between a broadcast or cable network and a TV provider. These disputes center on the fees the providers pay for the right to carry a network, and they can leave subscribers feeling caught in the middle.

Early this year, a battle between Time Warner Cable and the MSG Network lasted 48 days and forced Buffalo Sabres fans to miss 15 of the team's games before a deal was reached on Feb. 17.

And in March 2011, a dispute between Dish Network and LIN Media blacked out WIVB-TV and WNLO-TV to customers for nine days before the parties struck an agreement.