Mission Calls AT&T 'Intractable' in Letter to Government Officials

View of lounge area during DIRECTV Drag Bowl at Hotel Erwin on February 13, 2022 in Venice, California.
(Image credit: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for DirecTV)

In the midst of a retransmission-fee dispute with DirecTV, Mission Broadcasting has prepared letters for its station general managers to send to government officials blaming an intractable satellite company for the blackout impacting their constituents.

"After many extensions, DirecTV's contract to carry [the Mission stations] expired without a new agreement in place," the letter said. "DirecTV and its owners, telecom behemoth AT&T and private-equity firm TPG, believe they can bully a small local broadcaster and ignore the realities of the current marketplace, economic environment, and the entry of cash-flush tech firms such as Apple, Amazon and Netflix who have dramatically driven up the cost of sports and other on-air programming."

Mission wants its station general managers to send the letter to U.S. senators, members of congress, and governors.

The way the letter refers to DirecTV as being owned by AT&T and TPG, mirrors DirecTV's pointing out that Mission's stations are managed by giant broadcaster Nexstar Media Group.

Also: Nexstar, Verizon Fios Reach Deal To End Two-Week Blackout

"DirecTV/AT&T/TPG simply ignore the fact that in addition to unprecedented inflation and cost increases, Mission’s payments to the networks for their programming continue to increase," the letter said. "These network fees allow us to offer viewers programming such as college and NFL football, Major League Baseball, World Cup soccer and other high-profile entertainment and sports. The multimillion-dollar increases in these fees are passed along to us, the station owner. Instead of negotiating in good faith for terms that reflect the current environment, DirecTV/AT&T/TPG became intractable, and [this station and] 24 other full-power television stations were removed from their lineup creating a local news vacuum for our community, impacting thousands of viewers as we approach the midterm elections, high profile sporting events and the winter storm season."

DirecTV responded by saying "the rise in fees between Mission and its broadcast networks is something they need to address directly with Nexstar, who negotiates those rates on Mission’s behalf. We’re focused on helping consumers get more value for their hard-earned dollars rather than passing the buck."

Both broadcasters rejected the offer. Mission insists it regularly reaches amicable retransmission and carriage agreements.

Mission added that DirecTV "benefits from paying out-of-date retransmission consent fees to Mission while consistently instituting rate increases to its subscribers" and accused DirecTV of regularly blacking out viewers before agreeing to pay market rates to broadcasters.

"We are extremely disappointed in the loss of service to our viewers and local businesses," the letter concluded. "We have tried very hard to reach an agreement with DirecTV and remain committed to continuing to negotiate in good faith. We apologize for any inconvenience this situation has presented to you or your constituents."

The Mission stations went dark on October 21. DirecTV also has a blackout going on with stations owned by White Knight Broadcasting that started October 7.

Last week, DirecTV asked Mission and White Knight to restore their signals through Election Day. Both broadcasters rejected the offer. ■

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.