Starz and EchoStar reached a new, multi-year programming deal. The original pact expired Dec 31, but was extended several times as they worked on the new deal. Starz’s pact with DirecTV was set to expire yesterday, but was extended for 1 month as the 2 continue discussions. — Sounds like DirecTV and ION Networks (nee Paxson) could be moving closer to an agreement. DirecTV still believes it has the right to drop the natl and local ION channels (Cfax, Mar 7), but it has agreed to postpone a final decision until Apr 14. The DBS operator is accusing ION of violating its contract because of its recent programming changes. This week’s extension could signal good news for ION, which wouldn’t be able to use must-carry to get back on to DirecTV until ’08 if dropped. — Time Warner Cable’s battle with programmers is flaring up in Syracuse, NY, where it is threatening to drop GSN April 30, move Nat Geo from basic to digital and move Outdoor Channel to a sports tier.

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