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With Deal Expiring Soon, Sinclair Could Be The Next Set of Locals to Disappear from DirecTV and AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW)

Jason Gurwin

In what has been the summer of blackouts, there may be another one on the horizon. On today’s Q2 2019 Earnings Call, Sinclair Broadcast Group CFO, Lucy Rutishauser, shared that their deal with AT&T “comes up this quarter.”

The latest carriage negotiation comes just weeks after CBS nationally was dropped in major markets on DirecTV and nationally on DIRECTV NOW (now known as AT&T TV NOW). Prior to that, Nexstar, the largest local affiliate owner, had their channels dropped DirecTV, DIRECTV NOW, and AT&T U-Verse.

Sinclair has already been affected by the blackouts, as 19 of their local affiliates in which they had JSA agreements were dropped by AT&T in June. The company also had all of their CBS affiliates, which are negotiated by CBS directly, dropped by DIRECTV NOW in late-July.

The feud is over retransmission fees — which is the amount AT&T pays to carry the locals. Last month, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson seemed optimistic about a deal with CBS, but said a deal with Nexstar “could take a while.”

It is unlikely that the channels would disappear forever, but it is not unheard for local channel disputes to last multiple months. For many, the hope is that the dispute doesn’t go into NFL and College Football season which starts in September. Last year, PlayStation Vue and Sinclair Media Group were in an extended battle that saw many locals dropped from the service, only to return a few months later.

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