Satellite, cable viewers still without local stations

@TheSunGazette

FRESNO – Three weeks after a contract dispute between DirecTV/AT&T and Nexstar Media group, local satellite and cable viewers in the Fresno-Visalia market still can’t watch local news and programming on two of the four major television networks.

On July 5, Nexstar Media Group, which owns KSEE24 and CBS47, announced that AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service and U-verse cable service unilaterally dropped NBC and CBS affiliates from over 120 stations in 97 markets across the United States effective 11:59 p.m. local time on July 3.

“Nexstar remains eager to complete an agreement with DirecTV consistent with those it has made with every other cable, satellite and telcom provider in order to end DirecTV’s action that is both unnecessary and punitive to its subscribers,” Nexstar said in a statement issued on July 11.

During the blackout, DirecTV/AT&T customers are unable to watch NBC or CBS programming, as well as the local news these stations provide. As a result, there are less avenues for viewers to find news that’s important to them. For example, Nexstar said, as a result of AT&T/DirecTV’s actions, AT&T/DirecTV subscribers in Bakersfield were unable to receive local Nexstar televised news updates, in both English and Spanish, regarding the large earthquake and its aftershocks.

Nexstar claims AT&T/DirecTV did not accept its offer for an extension which would have allowed viewers in the affected markets to view their favorite network shows, special events, sports, local news and other programming through August 8 or until a deal can be reached.

Nexstar claims the dispute began brewing in January when AT&T raised prices on DirecTV, and in April it put through a price increase for its streaming subscription service, DirecTV Now. Since its acquisition of Time Warner in 2018 – which includes global media and entertainment giants Warner Bros., HBO, Turner and CNN – Nexstar claims AT&T is throwing its weight around as the telecom giant is 50 times larger than Nexstar and the size disparity is even greater relative to the other broadcasters that AT&T has currently blacked out.

“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 in a recent statement.

AT&T stated that it has been ready to negotiate since Nexstar removed its stations on July 3 but that Nexstar keeps moving the date. The telecommunication giant claims Nexstar is using the blackout as a ploy to double its retransmission fees.

“We have spent the past week offering Nexstar new rates in multiple good faith proposals. Nexstar claims that it offered us an unconditional 30-day extension. That is not true. Nexstar’s extension was specifically conditioned on its rates being retroactively applied, with an expectation that we and our customers would pay its unprecedented proposed fee increase.”

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal has issued a letter urging DirecTV and AT&T U-verse to immediately restore carriage of Nexstar-owned stations in his state. “This cutoff seems to have the sole purpose of enhancing DirecTV bargaining leverage – with severe harm to Connecticut consumers,” Blumenthal said.

In its “External Fact Sheet” and in communications to elected officials, AT&T asserted that Nexstar has been involved in blackouts with Cox Cable, DISH Network, Charter Spectrum “and others” but Nexstar contends it has never had DISH Network or Charter Spectrum remove its stations from their consumer video offerings.

Over the past 20 months alone, Nexstar said it has successfully renewed more than 390 distribution agreements with cable providers for the carriage of Nexstar’s stations, including a new agreement with Cox.

Nexstar said in the past 20 months alone, it has successfully renewed more than 390 distribution agreements with cable providers for the carriage of Nexstar’s stations. Nexstar would like to continue to try to reach a fair agreement with AT&T/DirecTV and allow its viewers to receive their local stations again.

DirecTV is routinely involved in disputes with content providers following its 2015 acquisition by AT&T. Since that time, Nexstar claims that DirecTV has dropped or threatened to black out network and local community programming from Viacom, SJL Broadcasting/Lilly Broadcasting, and others. Between May 30, 2019 and June 10, 2019 alone, viewers of at least 20 other non-Nexstar stations (owned by Deerfield Media, GoCom Media of Illinois, Howard Stirk Holdings, Mercury Broadcast Group, MPS Media, Nashville License Holdings, Roberts Media, Second Generation of Iowa and Waitt Broadcasting) lost access to network and local content.

Consumers and viewers affected by AT&T/DirecTV’s blackout can contact AT&T/DirecTV directly at 208 South Akard Street, Dallas, TX 75202 and by phone at 855-567-1569 or 210-821-4105. Viewers affected by the loss of service from DirecTV have several alternatives to continue watching their favorite shows including local cable providers, DISH, over-the-air, certain subscription streaming television services, and services such as Verizon’s FIOS.

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