DirecTV Sues Nexstar Over Retrans Dispute

(Image credit: DirecTV)

DirecTV has filed a lawsuit alleging that Nexstar. Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting illegally conspired to illegally increase content costs for free over-the-air TV during DirecTV’s negotiations with them over retransmission fees. 

In an email to TV Tech, Gary Weitman, executive vice president and chief communications officer at the Nexstar Media Group rebutted the allegations: "Nexstar’s shared services agreements with White Knight and Mission Broadcasting are in full compliance with FCC rules, and each station group independently negotiates its own retransmission consent agreements with its cable, satellite, and telco partners.  This lawsuit is without merit and Nexstar looks forward to prevailing in court."

 The lawsuit filed in Federal Court for the Southern District of New York stems from a long-running retransmission dispute (opens in new tab) involving Mission, White Knight and DirecTV that has blacked out their stations on DirecTV since October. Mission and White Knight have a management agreement with Nexstar for Nexstar to handle sales, news and certain other functions at the stations.  

The release announcing the suit (opens in new tab) claimed that the “trio’s unlawful price-fixing conspiracy has already resulted in 27 local stations remaining blacked out to several hundreds of thousands of DirecTV, DirecTV STREAM, and U-verse consumers spanning 25 cities from Albany to Albuquerque and Billings to Baton Rouge beginning Oct. 7, 2022.”

The DirecTV suit also alleges that Nexstar utilizes Mission and White Knight to skirt FCC station ownership caps and other federal laws through collusive retransmission consent negotiations with “sidecar” station groups that it manages. Nexstar owns overlapping stations with White Knight and Mission in every one of the affected markets and the suit charges both White Knight and Mission allow their respective retransmission consent negotiations to be overseen, administered and subject to the approval of Nexstar in direct violation of applicable laws.

“Mission and White Knight are now unlawfully coordinating with Nexstar to raise prices and extract supracompetitive retransmission consent fees from DirecTV in ‘overlap’ DMAs—those markets where both Nexstar and either Mission or White Knight each own a Big-4 station,” DirecTV states. “To accomplish this unlawful and anticompetitive aim, Mission and White Knight have entered into an agreement in which they have effectively relinquished decision-making authority to Nexstar.”

The suit also alleges that the trio routinely share confidential rates and other financial information through a single agent, closely align their respective blackout dates, and duplicate their public responses to the media to manipulate viewers and betray the public trust once they unilaterally pull their station signals.

A redacted copy of the suit is available here (opens in new tab)

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.