DirecTV Tells Republicans: It’s ‘Economics, Not Ideology’

Capitol Building

Responding to Republican members of Congress concerned about conservative news networks being stifled, DirecTV said its decision about whether to continue to carry Newsmax is driven by “economics, not ideology.”

DirecTV could stop carrying Newsmax as early as 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.

In a letter from company general counsel Michael Hartman to Rep. Wesley Hunt of Texas and about 40 other House members, a copy of which was obtained by Broadcasting+Cable, DirecTV said “we want to continue our carriage of Newsmax at the same terms as at present.”

Hartman said that AT&T-majority-owned DirecTV 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.”

Also: Newsmax Says It Expects ‘Fair’ Treatment from DirecTV

According to DirecTV, Newsmax has gotten broad distribution in exchange for not charging a distribution fee. DirecTV also has given the local commercial breaks, usually sold by the distributor, back to Nexmax to sell. 

At the same time, DirecTV has agreed that Newsmax can be distributed online and on streaming platforms for free. That arrangement enables Newsmax to reach both the 60% of households that have pay-TV and the 40% that don’t.

Newsmax is now seeking fees for its programming and offering to stop providing Newsmax online for free. Under that scenario, 55 million U.S. households would no longer be able to access Newsmax in its current form unless they acquire a pay-TV subscription, DirecTV said. “Under this change in model, who’s doing the de-platforming? Certainly not DirecTV.” 

After dropping Herring Networks-owned One America News last year, Hartman told the members of Congress that “in no way is DirecTV working to limit conservative viewpoints.”

He noted that the pay-TV business is shrinking, under pressure from tech companies that have moved into the content distribution business.

“We remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement with Newsmax that will allow us to continue to carry their programming while keeping our service affordable. We appreciate your concern for our customers. And we would be happy to meet to provide additional information if it would be helpful to do so,” Hartman said. ■

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.