AT&T withholds content from subscribers rather than negotiate with broadcasters at fair market rate

Local News

Nexstar Media Group, Inc. set the record straight today with legislators, regulators, consumers and others related to ongoing negotiations between the parties on a distribution agreement that will allow AT&T to continue to offer Nexstar’s highly rated network and local community programming to its subscribers.

The misinformation campaign began when AT&T indicated that “Nexstar pulled 120 of its local broadcast stations…” Nexstar did not pull its stations or ask for their removal from AT&T’s DIRECTV, Uverse 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.

AT&T in its “External Fact Sheet” and in communications to elected officials, erroneously asserts that Nexstar has been involved in blackouts with Cox Cable, DISH Network, Charter Spectrum “and others” when in fact Nexstar has never had DISH Network or Charter Spectrum remove its stations from their consumer video offerings. The facts are that Nexstar has established a long-term record of completing hundreds of agreements with multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs” or cable TV, satellite TV, telecom companies) for the carriage of its television stations and is proud that it has never, in its 23-year history, had a service interruption related to distribution agreements of the magnitude of the AT&T/DIRECTV interruption. Over the past 20 months alone, Nexstar has successfully renewed more than 390 distribution agreements with cable providers for the carriage of Nexstar’s stations, including a new agreement with Cox.

In contrast, following its 2015 acquisition by AT&T, DIRECTV has been routinely involved in disputes with content providers and has dropped or threatened to black out network and local community programming from Viacom, SJL Broadcasting/Lilly Broadcasting, and others. AT&T also fails to inform readers that between May 30, 2019 and June 10, 2019 alone, AT&T/DIRECTV customers lost access to the network and local content of at least 20 other non-Nexstar stations due to its failure to reach fair agreements with ten other broadcasters. At this time, AT&T has disputes with broadcasters and dropped local broadcast stations from several station operators (including Deerfield Media, MPS Media, GoCom Media of Illinois, Howard Stirk Holdings, Roberts Media, Second Generation of Iowa, Waitt Broadcasting, Mercury Media Group, Northwest Broadcasting and Nexstar), resulting in concentrated black outs of local programming and service for its customers in thirteen U.S. markets (see table below).

Notably, in addition to its ownership of DIRECTV- the nation’s largest direct broadcast satellite service provider and in some markets, the sole source of a broadcast signal – in 2018 AT&T acquired Time Warner including global media and entertainment giants Warner Bros., HBO, Turner and CNN.

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