More than 150 local TV stations owned by Nexstar Media Group went dark on the DirecTV platform as of 4 p.m. PT Sunday after the two sides failed to reach terms on a new consent agreement for retransmission.
The blackout includes Nexstar stations in Los Angeles (KTLA) and Chicago (WGN) as well as Nexstar’s NewsNation channel. In total, 159 stations serving 113 markets went dark after a final push of negotiations in late June.
DirecTV serves about 12.7 million subscribers across the US and Nexstar said it has offered to extend the existing deal through Oct. 31 to allow contract talks to continue. Nexstar indicated that the blackout affects at least 10 million subscribers across its DirecTV footprint. DirecTV accused Nexstar of pursuing unrealistic increases in the fees DirecTV paid Nexstar to carry its local stations on a market-by-market basis.
“Nexstar remains hopeful that a solution can be found quickly to get back to viewers with their favorite network programming, live sports, in-depth local news, and other local content relevant to their communities, as well as critical emergency updates for which DirecTV charges,” Nexstar said.
“Nexstar has a track record of forcing outages in programming in an attempt to unnecessarily raise prices for everyone at the expense of the licensed and entrusted communities it serves,” said Rob Thune, DirecTV’s chief content officer. “We will continue to work with Nexstar to reach an agreement and will take all necessary measures to provide our customers access to their favorite programs while protecting them from unjustified price increases.”
KTLA Los Angeles is among the Nexstar stations that aired a crawl alert during the news broadcast to warn DirecTV subscribers that the station might be down.
“Nexstar has been negotiating tirelessly and in good faith in an effort to reach a mutually agreed multi-year contract with DirecTV since May, offering the same fair market rates it has offered other distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations last year,” Nexstar said. It has routinely entered into amicable retransmission and carriage agreements with its cable, satellite and telecom partners – in the past three years alone, the company has successfully completed agreements with more than 500 distribution partners.”
DirecTV is coming back to Nexstar aggressively in federal court and in the FCC, accusing the streaming giant of using loopholes to get around FCC restrictions on the number of TV stations a single entity can own. DirecTV’s lengthy statement regarding the Nexstar blackout also refers to Nexstar’s business relationship with Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting. Both are small groups that struck deals with Nexstar when the company had to divest stations to comply with FCC ownership limits in order to complete its $4 billion acquisition of Tribune Broadcasting.
Nexstar has also blacked out 27 stations it controls but does not own from Mission and White Knight Broadcasting across the same 23 metro areas from DirecTV, DirecTV Stream, and U-verse homes since mid-October of last year. On March 15, DirecTV filed an antitrust lawsuit. in federal court, and on June 30, DirecTV filed a legal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, describing how Nexstar and its bogus sidecars conspire to manipulate the cost of retransmission consent for American consumers,” DirecTV said.
In its statement, DirecTV also stated that negotiations with Nexstar are continuing despite the outage.
Carriage battles between TV station groups, the largest cable system operators, and satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish Network have been a staple of the media industry for the past three decades. But in recent years, as the industry has shifted to direct-to-consumer streaming platforms, the temperature has dropped in those conversations. Nexstar and DirecTV is the first breakout between large-scale players in a few years. DirecTV remains a massive player in pay-TV distribution, even though its subscriber base, once more than 20 million in the US, has been hit hard by cord cuts.
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