This is one question that’s been asked over and over in the almost 20 years that DIRECTV has been offering local channels. At the risk of making this a very short article, the answer is almost always “no” — but read on because there is a very small sliver of hope.
Your local channels are protected several ways
The entire television broadcasting system in the US relies on the idea of protected local channels. At the most basic level, broadcasters are protected against having you watch any channel from outside their local market. This was easy to enforce in the decades before the internet but today of course it’s practically impossible. You can go onto practically any web site and stream their footage. Not only that you can go to perfectly legal apps like NewsON and watch news coverage from other cities.
The government no longer broadly enforces the doctrine once known as “syndication exclusivity.” Syndication Exclusivity is a rule set from the mid-20th century. These rules work like this. Say a program is aired on one channel in a market. The same market can’t air the same program unless everyone agrees that it’s ok. In this way, broadcasters know that their commercial revenue is safe. The networks will never agree to let it be seen on more than one station.
You could interpret this to mean that broadcasters could prevent you from seeing those channels’ content over the web. Obviously that isn’t happening.
Contracts and agreements
Here’s where the focus moves from the government to the private sector. Television networks have agreements with each other, and with pay-TV companies, that really govern what you are able to do here. It boils down to, you can’t get a “distant” channel unless the management of a “local” channel agrees that you can. And you can imagine how often that happens… pretty much never. The local channel would be giving up all their advertising revenue by letting you get a distant channel.
Agreements between local channels and pay-TV companies prevent pay TV companies from showing distant channels except in case of national emergencies. This is an important part of the process because if a local channel’s contract with the pay-TV provider expires, they have the right to demand that the channel be taken down. If a pay-TV provider could just give you a different local channel, there wouldn’t be any reason for the pay-TV company to negotiate with the local folks.
With satellite services, the local channels are broadcast on what are called “spot beams.” Limiting local channel broadcasts to the area where they are meant to be seen means the same frequencies can be used over and over. This makes it easier for satellite companies to serve the whole country.
If you are just looking for channels from the market next to yours, there’s a good chance you’re within their coverage area. The densely populated Northeast has a lot of overlapping markets. Spot beams often radiate outward 50-100 miles from the cities they serve, meaning a person in western Rhode Island could probably get New York, Boston, Hartford, and even Manchester local channels. Except they won’t, because the contracts won’t let them.
This term, “moving,” always used with quotes, means changing your service address so you can get different local channels. This can mean finding a friend in a local market who will be party to the whole deal.
Let’s be clear, “moving” is fraud, and it’s not only illegal but it’s a basis for the satellite company to sue you. They’ll probably win, too. And if you think they will never find you, you’re wrong. It’s easy for the satellite company to find your address using your internet address, and it’s easy to compare that to your billing address.
Let’s say you don’t connect to the internet. It’s still possible for the satellite company to audit the location you choose. They can simply use aerial photography to see if there’s a dish there, for example.
Waivers: the only way this actually works
If you’re in an area where you can get locals from an adjacent market? The only consistent way to really get them is to get a waiver. AT&T will grant these waivers very, very rarely. In fact if you try to get them yourself you’ll probably fail. Luckily, you have an expert in your corner
Signal Connect gets it done
The experts at Signal Connect do more waivers than anyone else. They may be able to help you. No, there’s no promise, other than this one: If they can’t get it done, nobody can.
If you need help, call the experts at Signal Connect. The number is 866-726-4182. If it’s after East Coast Business hours fill out the form below. Our staff will get back to you, usually within one business day.