CBS Stations Blacked Out Amid AT&T Dispute

Customers in 14 markets lost CBS programming over the weekend.
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NEW YORK & DALLAS—Warnings of a blackout of CBS stations for AT&T/DirecTV customers came to fruition over the weekend, as at 2 a.m. ET on July 20 CBS-owned television stations in 14 markets went dark following the two companies inability to reach a retransmission consent deal.

CBS-Logo

DirecTV, DirecTV Now and AT&T U-Verse customers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore lost access to CBS-owned television stations, while another 117 CBS stations and affiliates were blacked out on DirecTV Now. The CBS Sports Network was also dropped nationally on DirecTV and DirecTV Now; the Smithsonian Channel was removed from DirecTV. In addition, AT&T Now customers nationwide can’t watch CBS.

The two sides are pointing blame at the other for the failed negotiations.

“Please know that we had no wish to see any local CBS stations removed from our service and had asked CBS to keep them available while we continue to negotiate,” AT&T told customers on its website. “CBS removed them instead. This is completely CBS’s decision.” AT&T also claims that it offered CBS the highest fee it offers to any major broadcast group.

CBS countered in a statement of its own, saying: “After months of negotiations, CBS is simply looking for fair value for its programming and is proposing economic terms similar to those that AT&T’s competitors have accepted in our recent distribution agreements. The DirecTV deal expiring [Saturday] was signed in 2012 and is nowhere close to today’s fair market terms for CBS content—to which AT&T’s competitors have repeatedly agreed.”

CBS and AT&T had already agreed to an extension earlier in July to continue negotiations. Similar to AT&T’s claim that it offered to keep CBS stations on-air, CBS said it offered an additional 30-day extension for negotiations, but AT&T declined.

This is another retransmission fight for AT&T, which is currently in the midst of ones with Nexstar and a group of smaller stations. With the CBS blackout, there are now 162 stations dark to AT&T video customers.

AT&T, however, is instructing its customers on how it can still access CBS content despite the blackout. In some cities, viewers can watch their local CBS stations through the Locast app; CBS stations can also be viewed through the CBS All Access platform or local stations can be viewed over the air, on stations websites or via cbs.com.

Blackouts have unfortunately common in 2019, as there have already been 213 instances of channels going off the air through the first seven months, tying the record for the entirety of 2017.