Nexstar-owned stations in nearly 100 markets across the country have gone dark on AT&T’s DirecTV as the companies battle it out over a new retransmission consent deal covering dozens of Big Four network affiliates.
Nexstar said the stations went down at 11:59 p.m. ET on July 3 after DirecTV rejected an offer to extend the previous contract until Aug. 2 in order to continue negotiations. Nexstar said in a lengthy statement that DirecTV executives discouraged the broadcaster from running a crawl on its stations warning viewers of the potential blackout, a move that Nexstar executives took as a sign of confidence that a deal for more than 120 stations in 97 markets would be completed by the July 3 deadline.
“While Nexstar believed progress was being made in the negotiations, DirecTV misled Nexstar as it requested that viewers not be informed about the pending expiration as long as negotiations were continuing to be constructive,” Nexstar said. “Yet, with minutes to go before the prior agreement was to expire, DirecTV/AT&T did not accept Nexstar’s offer for an extension which would have allowed viewers in the affected markets to view their favorite network shows, special events, sports, local news and other programming on the Fourth of July and until such time as a new agreement can be reached.”
In a statement, DirecTV accused Nexstar of “holding viewers hostage” as a bargaining tactic.
“We had hoped to prevent Nexstar from pulling its stations from our customers’ lineups and we offered Nexstar more money to keep them available. Nexstar simply said no and elected to remove them instead. Nexstar has chosen to hold our customers hostage and put them into the center of its negotiations,” DirecTV said. “This is the same old Nexstar playbook. They pull or threaten to pull their signals from customers of many distributors to increase fees for “free TV” stations that far exceed their value.”
Nexstar asserted that it offered DirecTV and AT&T’s U-verse platform a carriage deal on the same terms that it has in place with other sizable MVPDs.
DirecTV characterizes Nexstar’s offer as “ the largest increase AT&T has ever seen proposed by any content provider. In addition, Nexstar wants much higher payments for stations and a low-rated cable network they don’t own, as well as carriage commitments and still more fees for channels that don’t even exist.”
Nexstar also was quick to suggest that AT&T was abusing its market clout in the wake of its 2018 acquisition of Time Warner. Such public complaints could be a headache for AT&T the next time it seeks regulatory approval for a transaction.
“A little more than a year after putting DirecTV together with Time Warner, AT&T appears intent on using its new market power to prioritize its own content at the expense of consumers, and insisting on unreasonable and extreme terms that are totally inconsistent with the market,” Nexstar said, also noting that DirecTV recently raised its prices.