More Legislators Join Call for Nexstar, AT&T Resolution

Legislators continued to turn up the heat in the ongoing retransmission consent battle between DirecTV and Nexstar Media Group, with representatives from seven states, including U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Kennedy (R-La.), joining Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in sending letters to DirecTV parent AT&T urging for an end to the blackout as it enters its fifth day.

About 120 Nexstar stations in 97 markets went dark to DirecTV, DirecTV Now and AT&T Uverse customers at 11:59 p.m. on July 3 after the parties could not reach a retransmission consent agreement. Nexstar said it offered to extend the deal through Aug. 2 as negotiations continued, but was rebuffed by AT&T.

Blumenthal fired off his letter on July 5, calling for AT&T to end the impasse and accept the latest offer from Nexstar, which the broadcaster had said involves a higher payment, or accept the broadcaster’s offer of an extension “at least through Aug. 2,” while negotiations continue.

According to Nexstar, since July 4, DirecTV and Uverse viewers missed more than 2,400 hours of local news as well as the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s historic World Cup finals game win. On July 9, viewers in 20 local markets will be unable to watch Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game through their AT&T/DirecTV subscriptions unless a deal is reached, according to Nexstar.

AT&T has said that Nexstar is demanding a huge fee increase, which it will have to pass on to consumers. It also said that it offered to pay Nexstar more money to keep their stations available, but was rejected.

“By doing so, Nexstar has put you in the center of its negotiations,” AT&T said in its website, “Nexstar pulls or threatens to pull their stations from the customers of TV providers to increase fees for stations far beyond their value. They’ve done it to Cox Cable, Dish, and Charter Spectrum, and now they’re doing it to us.”

In their frustration, several DirecTV and Uverse customers from across the country have sent Multichannel News emails and voicemails expressing their displeasure with the impasse, ranging from “Please get the finances straightened out Nexstar, Direct TV, AT&T so your paying customers can get back to what they are paying for! I am NOT a happy camper!” from one customer in Nevada to “This stinks,” from a customer in Rochester, N.Y.

Sens. Thune and Kennedy were joined by legislators from West Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York and Alabama in calling for an end to the impasse, urging DirecTV and AT&T Uverse to immediately restore carriage of the Nexstar stations.

“I strongly encourage AT&T/DirecTV to provide carriage of KELO-TV and KCLO-TV through August 2, 2019, as requested by Nexstar, so that the parties can continue negotiations without impacting consumers’ ability to view their local news coverage in the affected broadcast markets,” Thune said in his letter, which was available on Nexstar’s website.

Sen. Kennedy cited the impact on consumers in Louisiana of losing access to local broadcasters during the height of hurricane season.

“I am especially concerned about customers losing access to up-to-date weather information in the event that the tropical depression currently forming in the Gulf of Mexico turns into a hurricane,” Sen. Kennedy said in his letter. “I encourage you to accept Nexstar’s offer of a short-term extension while you resolve your differences.”

Congressman Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) issued a public statement calling on AT&T to “negotiate in good faith” with Nexstar, adding that the blackout represents a public safety issue.

“Many New Yorkers use local television to find out about breaking news, traffic accidents, and important weather events,” Brindisi wrote. “These blackouts need to end.”