Two local stations go dark on DirecTV

Nathan Baker • Updated Jul 5, 2019 at 5:48 PM

DirecTV customers in the area may have noticed two missing channels this July 4, as two national media companies battled over fees to show content.

DirecTV parent company AT&T and Nexstar Broadcasting Group, failed to reach an agreement over carriage fees before the previous contract expired, and 120 stations in 97 markets went black.

Locally, the satellite service lost the retransmission rights to air WJHL, the local CBS affiliate, and ABC Tri-Cities, an ABC affiliate.

The two national companies issued dueling statements blaming each other for the breakdown in contract negotiations and the loss of programming.

“We had hoped to prevent Nexstar from removing its stations from your TV channel lineup,” AT&T wrote on its website. “We even offered Nexstar more money to keep their stations available. However, Nexstar simply said no and chose to remove them instead. By doing so, Nexstar has put you in the center of its negotiations.”

In Nexstar’s statement, the company claimed its representatives had been negotiating in good faith and offered its content to AT&T at the same rates set this year with other large distributors. Nexstar, the second-largest television station owner in the country, criticized the size and reach of AT&T after its acquisition of the satellite provider in 2015 and entertainment conglomerate Time Warner last year.

“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 wrote.

Blackouts during contract negotiations have grown more common in the last decade, as television station owners and cable and satellite providers merged into larger and larger companies, hoping to increase negotiating power and cut costs.

According to cable, satellite and telephone company trade group The American Television Alliance, eight blackouts in 2010 rose to a high point of 213 in 2017. So far this year, before the breakdown between AT&T and Nexstar, there were 63 blackouts.

Both companies said the contract negotiations are ongoing, and they hope to reach an agreement soon.

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