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This is What Nexstar and AT&T Are Saying About Their Carriage Dispute

Stephanie Sengwe

Negotiations can be tough and the case is no different for Nexstar and AT&T who have been feuding over retransmission fees—the money AT&T pays to carry local channels. Nexstar, which currently owns ~175 local stations, and will become the largest local broadcaster after their purchase of Tribune, is a major blow for AT&T customers.

Initial reports stated that some of the larger confirmed channels affected were KRN (ABC) in Nashville, KXAN (NBC) in Austin, and KLAS (CBS) in Las Vegas. Now, viewers of KHON—the number one television station in Honolulu—were also added to that list and are unable to catch updates on expected severe thunderstorms hitting the region due to Hurricane Barbara. In Bakersfield, Calif., viewers were also outraged as they couldn’t catch local updates during the largest earthquakes in the state’s history last week.

For Nexstar, the retransmission fees offered to AT&T/DirectTV are no different than those charged to other cable providers. The company has been in negotiations with other cable providers, successfully renewed more than 390 distribution agreements with cable providers for the carriage of Nexstar’s stations.

According to Nexstar, AT&T/DIRECTV did not accept their offer for an extension which would have allowed viewers in the affected markets to view their favorite network shows, special events, sports, local news and other programming on the Fourth of July. The extension would have also allowed the affected areas access until a new agreement can be reached.

Nexstar also claims that contrary to AT&T’s public statements, the company has not pulled its stations or asked for their removal from AT&T/DIRECTV’s DIRECTV, U-verse or DIRECTV NOW platforms.

On the other hand, AT&T/DirectTV is arguing that it offered the company a fair deal. “We had hoped to prevent Nexstar from removing its stations from your TV channel lineup. We even offered Nexstar more money to keep their stations available,” AT&T said in a statement. “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. The four major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) have together lost about half their primetime audience over the past few years. Despite this, Nexstar is demanding the largest increase that AT&T has ever seen from any content provider.”

This is fourth major carriage dispute for AT&T in as many months — including with smaller station owners Northwest Broadcasting, Deerfield Media, Roberts Media, Second Generation of Iowa, GoCom Media, MPS Media, Howard Stirk Holding, and Waitt Broadcasting. The service recently renegotiated deals with Viacom and A+E, while dropping NFL Network.

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