DirecTV Viewers in Western N.D. Still Without ABC Affiliate KMBY

It has been nearly two months and DirecTV customers in western North Dakota are still without local ABC affiliate KBMY.

DirecTV hasn’t been carrying KBMY — which is based in Bismarck — or North Dakota ABC affiliates WDAY in Fargo and WDAZ in Grand Forks since June 1, when contract extension negotiations broke down between the satellite provider and Forum Communications, which owns the three stations as well as The Dickinson Press.

With the blackout about to enter its ninth week, some southwest North Dakota viewers are beginning to express their frustrations.

Dave Holland, a Killdeer businessman who lives in rural Dunn County, said customers are caught in between a power struggle.

“When companies get so large, it’s all about power,” Holland said. “It’s all about controlling the market and the way they do business. The small person, the consumer, is always going to be the loser in these power struggles.”

Holland said his biggest issue with the loss of the channel was during the NBA finals, which aired on ABC in June.

Holland said it took a few calls and some personal negotiating with DirectTV before the satellite provider allowed him to replace the lost KBMY feed with the ABC affiliate feeds from Los Angeles and New York. Still, he has to pay an extra $2.50 a month for those channels and said he didn’t receive a discount in his bill for losing KBMY.

Mari Ossenfort, vice president for broadcasting at Forum Communications and WDAY’s general manager, said DirecTV pays a per-subscriber fee for the rights to broadcast local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW.

She said DirecTV is unwilling to pay the fee Forum Communications is asking for its ABC affiliates.

Ossenfort said while she can’t share the Forum’s asking price because of confidentiality agreements, she did say “the price we are asking is far less than $2.50 a month.”

“DirecTV refuses to pay us a market-based fee for the right to resell our stations’ signals to its subscribers and is insisting on a variety of other oppressive contractual demands that no other distributor of our stations has demanded,” Ossenfort said.

Nolan Dix, the station manager for KNDC-AM radio in Hettinger, is a DirecTV customer and said the world of broadcasting can be fickle — especially when it comes to broadcast rights.

“It’s just frustrating that somebody holds that much power that you flip on a channel and it’s like, ‘Oh wait, I don’t get it?’” he said.

Jill Eckroth said she and her family have had DirecTV since they moved to Flasher in 2006 and have received local channels since about 2010. She said while DirecTV has always provided them with good service — including hooking up their service following a recent move to a new home outside of the small Morton County town — she said the inability to watch some of her favorite TV shows, including summer hit “The Bachelorette,” has been frustrating.

“We can’t get it unless we have an antenna, but it’s not easy to do that either because it’s not always good reception and service,” Eckroth said.

DirecTV was purchased in 2015 by AT&T — one of the largest companies in the world. Since then, the satellite provider has blacked out markets far beyond Bismarck and Fargo because of prolonged contract negotiations.

On July 16, the satellite provider dropped the NBC and CW affiliates in Boston and the Fox affiliate in Miami. Last year, it had a three-month dispute with the ABC affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Ossenfort said Forum first proposed a new agreement with DirecTV on Jan. 27. The existing agreement expired March 31, but an extension was granted as the two sides negotiated. That extension was terminated June 1, when DirecTV turned off viewers’ access to the channels.

She said the ABC affiliates owned by Forum cover in the entire state of North Dakota, eastern Montana, northwest Minnesota and northern South Dakota, as well as parts of Canada.

“We understand the viewers’ frustration as we are frustrated also,” Ossenfort said. “The demands DirecTV is making exceed those of any other agreement we have with a distributor. We need to be fair to all our distributors. We have commitments that we need to make to our programmers.”

Attempts made via email to contact AT&T DirecTV for this story were not returned.

‘Pokémon Go’ Craze Strong in Dickinson, Causes Few Problems

Ashley DeWitt and Alyss Kovash walked about Prairie Outpost Park on Thursday afternoon, their heads bobbing up and down between the historic buildings and their smartphones.

Soon, one pointed to the west and they picked up the pace.

After all, they wanted to catch ‘em all. Pokémon that is.

The pair — two of hundreds in Dickinson and millions around the world — were playing the augmented reality video game “Pokémon Go,” a smartphone app that makes users leave their couches and head outside to play.

“It’s addicting,” Kovash said with a laugh.

The game has taken ahold of Dickinson’s gaming community. John Odermann with Badlands Comics and Games estimates hundreds around Dickinson are playing the game. He’s even has seen multiple people of all ages playing “Pokémon Go” in the evenings at certain locations around Dickinson, including Prairie Outpost Park and Dickinson State University.

“You’ll see clusters of teenage kids, college kids and adults just walking around because there’s so many Pokéstops at those two places,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

“Pokémon Go” is a variation on the popular Nintendo video game franchise “Pokémon” (short for Pocket Monsters) which hooked gamers and casual fans 20 years ago and spawned games in multiple formats, a TV show and movies.

The game uses the GPS in a player’s smartphone to place them on an actual map of the city they’re in and has them physically walk around the area to try and find “Pokémon” characters to “catch.”

Multiple Dickinson attractions — such as The Brew coffee shop, the Biesiot Activities Center, most churches and even Walmart — are either “Pokéstops” or “gyms,” which are digital arenas overlaid on the real locations. Players must actually go to these places in order to play the game.

Dickinson law enforcement and DSU security have had a crash course in the game since it debuted earlier this month.

But unlike other cities, where law enforcement have encountered issues with trespassing, Dickinson authorities say they’ve only had a few concerned citizens call in reports of teens and 20-somethings wandering around seemingly aimlessly outside of churches and in parks late at night.

Jack Schulz, director of security at DSU, said on a nice evening, as many as 50 “Pokémon Go” players can be found traversing the campus.

“We haven’t had any issues,” he said. “The only thing we ask them is when they’re driving, don’t be using it, because it’s like texting. Watch what you’re doing.”

Dickinson Police Capt. David Wilkie also urged players to be mindful that someone may be watching them while they’re “hunting” for Pokémon.

“Don’t be surprised if the police show up, because people (in Dickinson) are still a little leery of people doing strange things,” Wilkie said. “In a big city, people are used to seeing people doing weird things. But here in Dickinson, if people are sitting out in front of their house or in front of a business in the middle of the night, they tend to be more on the cautious side than not.”

One thing is for certain though — “Pokémon Go” is doing exactly what it aimed for.

It’s getting gamers off the couch and outside this summer.

DeWitt, a 26-year-old from Gladstone, said she has been playing some version of “Pokémon” since she was a child and owns the first set of “Pokémon” cards. She said she downloaded “Pokémon Go” immediately when she heard it had come out and said enjoys how interactive the game is.

“When you’re little, you’re like, oh I want to be this,” DeWitt said. “Now that it’s out, you’re like, wow, I can actually do this. It’s fun. It’s something to do to pass the time.”

She and Kovash, 19, said they walked from Villard Street to Museum Drive while playing the game Thursday and had more walking to do. Along the way, they met other “Pokémon Go” players.

“There were guys walking in the center of the road,” Kovash said with a laugh. “They’re like, ‘Are you collecting Pokémon? Have you found any?’”

Nathan Jones, a 25-year-old maintenance technician from Dickinson, said there’s a lot of nostalgia in playing the game.

“Growing up as a kid, it’s every little kid’s dream to play ‘Pokémon’ in the real world and now you have the ability to do so,” he said.

Jones said he has been all around Dickinson and even went to Bismarck to play “Pokémon Go.” He and a group of friends are even discussing a trip to Las Vegas in part because of the high volume of Pokéstops along The Strip.

Jones said he’s pleased with how socially interactive the game makes users be, as well as the positivity it brings.

“It gives a good reason to bring people together,” he said. “Most of the time it’s people sharing secrets, or little tips and tricks they’ve learned along the way. There’s a whole ’nother aspect of it.”

Odermann, who is also the head football coach at Trinity High School, called the game “a great opportunity for people to get outside and do some physical activity.”

He also believes the game could bring forth a change in how some video games are played.

“Nintendo, a couple years ago with the Wii, revolutionized gaming,” he said. “This may be another way they’re doing it. You’re not sitting on a couch anymore playing this game. You’re actually out walking around getting some physical exercise.”

Kat Perkins Makes Waves With Musical Tribute to Late Friend Christina Grimmie

Kat Perkins is back in North Dakota on a week that her newest song is making waves in the music industry.

Perkins, a Scranton native, was featured on the homepage of music magazine Rolling Stone’s website throughout Tuesday for an article about the release of her song “Angels.”

Perkins recorded “Angels” as a tribute to her friend, the late singer Christina Grimmie, as well as the victims of the Orlando, Fla., nightclub shootings. She said Tuesday afternoon that the response to the song — which was written by her boyfriend, producer and guitarist Eric Warner — has been “overwhelming.”

“It was one of those cool, spontaneous moments for us to do what we know how to do and that’s make music and help people heal through music,” Perkins said. “It was helping us heal at the same time. It was a cool moment to see it come together like that and make an impact on others, because that’s what we set out to do.”

Perkins’ popularity rose after she appeared on season six of NBC’s singing competition show “The Voice.” There, she met Grimmie. The two were not only competitors but roommates who became fast friends.

Grimmie, a 22-year-old Christian pop singer, died June 11 in Orlando after being shot while signing autographs following a concert. Her shooter, 27-year-old, Kevin James Loibl, took his own life.

Perkins said “Angels” won’t be released on iTunes until Wednesday, at the earliest. When it is, proceeds from the single’s sales will be given to Grimmie’s family through a GoFundMe website. Perkins said Grimmie’s mother, Tina, is not only dealing with the loss of her daughter but has also been fighting cancer.

“She was everything to that family, not only as a daughter and an awesome human being, but her career was something that was taking off,” Perkins said. “They moved to L.A. for her. They fully supported her passion for making her music.”

Perkins will perform “Angels” live for the first time Saturday during a concert that begins at 3:30 p.m. at Medora’s Burning Hills Amphitheatre.  

Leading up to the concert, she’s hosting the Badlands Rising Star Music Camp. It begins today with 28 singers from across the upper Midwest and as far away as California.

Perkins will coach and mentor the campers throughout the next three days. They’ll then perform as the concert’s opening act and alongside Perkins during her concert.

“It felt so right,” she said of the camp. “I’ve never been so excited about something in my life. Now in the light of the last week or so, it’s kind of a shining light in my life and I feel like I can carry on a really cool legacy for not only myself but for Christina and the other musicians to help our young ones not only become better singers and performers, but to be better people and to be kind and choose love.”


If you go

What: Kat Perkins concert

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Burning Hills Amphitheatre, Medora

Opening act: Participants of Perkins’ Badlands Rising Star Music Camp, which is being held this week in Medora.

Online: Visit to watch the music video for “Angels.”

Aaron Tippin, a country music great, arrives Thursday night for unplugged session during Alive @ 5

Submitted Photo   Aaron Tippin, singer of “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly,” poses with his signature American flag guitar.
Submitted Photo
Aaron Tippin, singer of “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly,” poses with his signature American flag guitar.

Aaron Tippin is different than most country music stars. He spent much of past week relaxing in a northern California campground not far from the Pacific Ocean with his band and tour members. At night, they’d grill food and spend time hanging out by a campfi re.

“That’s exactly what I like,” he said.

The 57-year-old, who is in his 25th year as an entertainer, will be in Dickinson to perform Thursday night in what is being billed as a mostly “unplugged” session at the Alive @ 5 downtown street fair.

One of the biggest country music stars of the 1990s, Tippin has been performing off-and-on with the Roots and Boots Tour alongside Joe Diffi e and Sammy Kershaw, two of his ’90s country contemporaries. He was also recently involved in some large-venue concerts alongside Keith Urban and Hunter Hayes.

However, the chart-topping singer-songwriter said he has always enjoyed performing in front of smalltown crowds. In fact, he even makes his home in a middle Tennessee hamlet of less than 200 people on the far outskirts of Nashville.

“There’s nothing like being able to sit and stare right into their eyes with a guitar and just play a song,” he said Wednesday during a phone interview.
Continue reading “Aaron Tippin, a country music great, arrives Thursday night for unplugged session during Alive @ 5”

Hike with Mike: Actor Michael J. Fox joins Parkinson’s fundraiser trip up White Butte

Submitted Photo by Roxee Jones Actor Michael J. Fox, middle, walks with Denise Lutz of New England, left, and Sam Fox, who is bicycling throughout the country raising money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation while also climbing the highest peak in every state, walk toward White Butte near Amidon on Sunday afternoon.
Submitted Photo by Roxee Jones
Actor Michael J. Fox, middle, walks with Denise Lutz of New England, left, and Sam Fox, who is bicycling throughout the country raising money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation while also climbing the highest peak in every state, walk toward White Butte near Amidon on Sunday afternoon.

AMIDON — Roxee Jones drove from Dickinson to White Butte in rural Slope County on Sunday morning expecting a quick hike up North Dakota’s highest point.

The Grand Forks woman never thought she’d spend time with a famous actor who is the face of a cause near to her heart.

Actor Michael J. Fox fl ew into southwest North Dakota on Sunday to join Sam Fox, the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s outreach and engagement offi cer who is making a threemonth journey across the United States to raise money for Parkinson’s disease research.

Jones said the actor actually led the hike up the butte, which is 3,507 feet above sea level.

“It was just an awesome experience — overwhelming that he showed up there,” said Jones, who teaches Parkinson’s wellness classes at the Grand Forks YMCA and whose father, Donald Lutz of Dickinson, lives with the disease.

Continue reading “Hike with Mike: Actor Michael J. Fox joins Parkinson’s fundraiser trip up White Butte”

Listening to fulfill a need

Do you read?

I’m not talking about this column and newspaper, or the Facebook news feed some of you probably scrolled through to get here. Yes, that is reading, but it’s a different type of reading than I’m talking about.

Really, my question should be: Do you read books?

For me, the answer is … kinda. Let me explain …

Continue reading “Listening to fulfill a need”

Movies to watch for guys … for free

Guys, do you ever walk in the house at 7 p.m. on a Monday and the woman in your life has commandeered the primary household TV for her ritualistic viewing of “The Bachelor”?

That means you find yourself in front of a tablet or a TV and can’t find anything good to watch, especially now that Monday Night Football is done for the season.

In that case, here are a few films that can be found on Netflix’s streaming service that can tide you over on those boring Mondays (or any other boring day, really). Continue reading “Movies to watch for guys … for free”