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Cubs Opener Avoids Blackout As Tribune, DirecTV Make Deal

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Marlon Byrd stretches before Thursday's opener. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Marlon Byrd stretches before Thursday’s opener. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) — DirecTV subscribers in 19 U.S. markets have regained access to a host of channels that had been blacked out since Sunday because of a contract impasse with Tribune Broadcasting.

The two companies said late Wednesday that they had struck a deal that will allow DirecTV Inc. to carry all of Tribune Broadcasting’s local stations and WGN America for the next five years. Terms were not disclosed.

DirecTV Inc. subscribers in the markets lost access to programming ranging from “American Idol” to Major League Baseball after the previous contract with Tribune Broadcasting expired at midnight Saturday. The Tribune Broadcasting channels were restored at about 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday, DirectTV said.

The blackout affected DirecTV subscribers in major markets including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Philadelphia. The blackout also extended to stations in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, Washington state and Washington, D.C. DirectTV said 5 million homes were affected.

In its statement Wednesday, DirecTV accused Tribune of being “willing to hold our customers hostage in an attempt to extract excessive rates.” But it described the final agreement as a fair deal at market rates.

Tribune also said it was pleased with the deal.

“On behalf of Tribune Broadcasting, I want to thank viewers across all of our markets for their support, understanding and patience during the negotiating process — we truly regret the service interruptions of the last several days,” said Nils Larsen, president of Tribune Broadcasting.

Chicago-based Tribune Co.’s broadcasting group owns or runs 23 television stations, WGN America on national cable and Chicago radio station WGN-AM. Its publishing arm includes daily newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.

Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008 after suffering a financial downturn brought on by a steep slump in newspaper advertising and a debt-laden buyout engineered by real estate mogul Sam Zell.

DirecTV, based in El Segundo, Calif., serves 32 million people in the U.S. and Latin America.

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