DirecTV Stops Carrying Newsmax as Contract Extension Expires

Newsmax at NRA annual meeting
(Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP)

DirecTV stopped carrying Newsmax when an extension of their carriage agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET in a move that could have repercussions in Washington.

DirecTV, one of the first distributors to carry Newsmax, said it ceased carrying the conservative news network because it was seeking a carriage fee after previously being available for free.

“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” DirecTV said in a statement. "Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free via, and on multiple streaming platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Google Play. We continually evaluate the most relevant programming to provide our customers and expect to fill this available channel with new content."

Newsmax had been telling Republicans in Congress that DirecTV was discriminating against its conservative viewpoint.

“The most important fact about this dispute is this: in response to pressure from Congressional Democrats, AT&T and DirecTV have twice demonetized a conservative news channel in just one year. Yet they continue to carry and pay many liberal channels with a fraction of Newsmax’s audience share. This is prima facie evidence of viewpoint discrimination,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said in a letter sent to Congressman Wesley Hunt of Texas on Tuesday.

Hunt on Monday had sent a letter to DirecTV expressing concern that DirecTV, which last year dropped One America News Networks, another conservative outlet, was stifling  conservative voices and making it more difficult for Republicans to communicate with constituents.

The letter was cosigned by more than 40 other Republican members of Congress and warned that they would hold hearings on the situation.

In its reply, DirecTV said that the decision was about economics, not ideology,

Also: DirecTV Drops Bloomberg TV After More Than 25 Years

DirecTV general counsel Michael Hartman, in a letter to Rep. Hunt, said that AT&T has been negotiating with Newsmax for months. “Faced with an expiration of our current agreement, [we] initiated a short-term extension to allow the parties to come to an agreement.”

Hartman told the members of Congress that “in no way is DirecTV working to limit conservative viewpoints.”

But Ruddy noted that while balking at paying for Newsmax, “DirecTV continually renews low-rated liberal channels and pays them much higher fees than their market value. Meanwhile, they argue conservative channels should be closed down for ‘cost cutting.’ Again, this is blatant hypocrisy and discrimination.” ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.