CBS Warns Viewers of Possible DirecTV Blackout

NEW YORK—As the AT&T-Nexstar dispute continues into its third week, CBS is warning its viewers that it could be the next broadcaster in the DirecTV owner’s crosshairs.

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 and the impasse continues.

Now CBS claims AT&T is not proposing a “fair market value agreement” to continue carrying its TV stations and says that CBS-owned stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore could be pulled at 11:00 PM, PT on July 19. DirecTV NOW customers nationwide would lose the CBS Television Network’s hit programming as well.

“CBS has reached timely, fair agreements with hundreds of other cable, satellite, telco and internet providers to carry our industry-leading, fan-favorite programming,” the network said in a statement. “AT&T, however, continues to propose unfair terms well below those agreed to by its competitors and may drop CBS unless we agree to those terms.”

“CBS would like to avoid being dropped, but unless an agreement is reached, our viewers should be prepared,” the statement said, adding that “AT&T’s willingness to deprive its customers of valuable content has become routine over the last few weeks and months.”

AT&T responded by saying that “Broadcast stations are the incumbents to our industry, and many feel they deserve certain entitlements. They continue to give their signals away for free but also demand unsustainably growing fees for allowing customers the convenience of receiving their channels in a usual program guide or without switching an input.”

AT&T also accused broadcasters of failing to “evolve” in the new media landscape.

“The best producers have moved aggressively into the multichannel environment and streaming to escape broadcast network and local station restrictions,” AT&T said. “And even programmers like CBS are moving their most anticipated content off the national broadcast channel and into other alternatives.

“The talent goes elsewhere, the audiences follow, and yet stations refuse to evolve, shutting off the same communities they are licensed to serve. This year, broadcasters have caused more than 200 blackouts industry-wide, which is on a record one-year pace. That’s already a more than 20 percent jump over the 165 in 2018.”

The company also called for new regulations.

“There are ways to try to eliminate these blackouts, including new legislation, and fortunately Congress has taken more interest. But the best option is to create mutually beneficial relationships with broadcasters like CBS and Nexstar through good faith negotiations.”

Tom Butts

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 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 (, 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.