Broadcaster Tegna gave AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse services another day to hammer out a retransmission consent deal, extending access to its 60 TV stations across the country until Dec. 1, allowing talks to continue.
The deal was supposed to expire at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30.
The stations involved include affiliates of all four major broadcasters in cities like Seattle, Washington, D.C, Minneapolis, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Cleveland and St. Louis. Tegna has said that AT&T has “refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us,” but that talks continue.
“We have agreed to a temporary extension to allow negotiations to continue,” Tegna said via its various station websites. “...We promise to keep you informed as we make every effort to resolve this situation and keep our stations on the air.”
AT&T said in a statement that it was disappointed that Tegna decided to make its negotiations public.
“We’re disappointed to see Tegna put our customers into the middle of private negotiations,” AT&T said in a statement. “We want to keep the Tegna stations in our local lineups. Yet by law, Tegna has exclusive control over which homes are allowed to receive ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX or CW in certain cities, regardless of what provider they choose. As many station owners like Tegna keep losing viewers and sponsors, they’ve resorted to blacking out popular local teams or any remaining hit shows at the worst possible time in order to extract unwarranted increases over their already high fees despite their fading popularity, leaving consumers to foot the bill.”
AT&T claimed that in most cases, Tegna reaches a deal without interruption, and when blackouts occur they last only a few hours or a few days, calling blackout threats “shameless profiteering at the public expense,” made worse by the current pandemic “when medical news is at a premium and regular folks are struggling to make ends meet.”
On its websites, Tegna pointed to the myriad deals it has reached with other distributors.
“Our track record proves it,” Tegna said on its station sites. “Over the past few years, we reached hundreds of multi-year deals with cable and satellite companies all across the country, including Dish, Spectrum, Comcast, Frontier and many others. It has been disappointing that DirecTV, so far, has refused to reach an agreement.”
Tegna is the latest broadcaster to warn of impending retrans blackouts. On Nov. 26, Dish Network warned that 164 Nexstar Media Group stations could go dark to its subscribers on Dec. 2, unless a deal is reached. Dish accused Nexstar of demanding exorbitant rate increases, while the broadcaster countered that talks have been ongoing since July, and that Dish has rejected several reasonable offers.
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Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.