Despite a weekend meeting between AT&T and Nexstar to return Nexstar’s TV stations to AT&T’s DirecTV platform, the dispute continues.
On July 3, more than 120 Nexstar Media Group TV stations went dark for AT&T/DirecTV customers throughout the country as a result of failed retransmission negotiations. Stations in 97 markets were impacted by the blackout, which began at 11:59 p.m. on July 3. Both companies claim they are negotiating in good faith, however the failure from the weekend meeting didn’t stop them from continuing their war of words.
AT&T claims Nexstar wants to increase fees for carrying their local TV stations “far beyond their value.” Nexstar claims that AT&T—which recently dried the ink on an $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner—of using its newfound power within the pay-TV industry unfairly.
“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 terms that are inconsistent with the market,” Nexstar said over the weekend.
AT&T claims that Nexstar is “reducing consumer choice” by pulling its stations from the DirecTV lineup, denying its subscribers to view free over-the-air television provided by broadcast networks that have “together lost about half their primetime audience over the past few years.”
Nexstar even accused AT&T of misrepresenting its role to regulators in past disputes with other pay-TV providers.
“The misinformation campaign began when AT&T indicated that “Nexstar pulled 120 of its local broadcast stations…” Nexstar said in a statement. “Nexstar did not pull its stations or ask for their removal from AT&T’s DirecTV, U-verse or DirecTV Now platforms. Rather, Nexstar’s offer for a 30 day extension would have allowed consumers in the affected markets to continue viewing their favorite network shows, special events, sports, local news and other programming while the parties continue negotiations.”
It also said that AT&T claimed that Nexstar had been involved in blackouts with Cox Cable, DISH Network, Charter Spectrum “and others.” “In fact, Nexstar has never had DISH Network or Charter Spectrum remove its stations from their consumer video offerings,” Nexstar said.
The dispute has prompted numerous calls from members of Congress to return the stations to DirecTV while the two companies negotiate.
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Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.