IRVING, Texas – Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has issued a letter urging direct broadcast satellite service provider DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse to immediately restore carriage of Nexstar-owned WTNH-TV (ABC) and WCTX-TV (MyNetworkTV). Effective 11:59 p.m. CT on July 3, 2019, AT&T/DIRECTV dropped the network and local community programming for Nexstar-owned stations impacting viewers in 97 markets across the country. The action follows AT&T/DIRECTV’s refusal to accept Nexstar’s offer for an extension which would have allowed viewers in Hartford-New Haven as well as other affected markets to view their favorite network shows, special events, sports, local news and other programming while the parties continue to negotiate.
In the letter dated July 5, Senator Blumenthal acknowledges that local consumers “value Connecticut-based journalism and broadcasting” and strongly urges AT&T/DIRECTV to “immediately provide carriage of WTNH and WCTX through at least August 2, 2019 as requested by Nexstar” which would provide both parties time to come to an agreement “without barring AT&T/DirecTV consumers from viewing their local news coverage.”
Nexstar continues to negotiate in good faith to establish a mutually agreeable contract with AT&T/DIRECTV and has offered AT&T/DIRECTV the same rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations with in 2019 to date. Contrary to AT&T’s public statements, Nexstar in no way pulled its stations or asked for their removal from AT&T/DIRECTV’s DIRECTV, U-verse or DIRECTV NOW platforms. In the time leading up to the expiration of the agreement, Nexstar not only offered an extension until August 2, but also offered AT&T/DIRECTV its availability to meet in-person to avoid any disruption in service to its customers and our viewers. Nexstar once again reiterated its offer of an extension on July 4, when AT&T/DIRECTV unilaterally dropped the network and local community programming, and on July 5, following the receipt of Senator Blumenthal’s letter.
Nexstar has yet to receive a response from AT&T/DIRECTV regarding its extension offer. As Senator Blumenthal notes, “This cutoff seems to have the sole purpose of enhancing DirecTV bargaining leverage – with severe harm to Connecticut consumers.”
AT&T/DIRECTV is routinely involved in disputes with content providers and following its 2015 acquisition by AT&T, DIRECTV has dropped or threatened to black out network and local community programming from Viacom, SJL Broadcasting/Lilly Broadcasting, and others. Between May 30, 2019 and June 10, 2019 alone, viewers of at least 20 other non-Nexstar stations (owned by Deerfield Media, GoCom Media of Illinois, Howard Stirk Holdings, Mercury Broadcast Group, MPS Media, Nashville License Holdings, Roberts Media, Second Generation of Iowa and Waitt Broadcasting) lost access to network and local content.
Over the past 20 months alone, Nexstar has successfully renewed more than 390 distribution agreements with cable providers for the carriage of Nexstar’s stations. Nexstar will continue to try to reach a fair agreement with AT&T/DIRECTV and allow its viewers to receive their local stations again. Nexstar agrees with Senator Blumenthal that the public interest is best served by restoring carriage of Nexstar-owned stations to local viewers as soon as possible. As a result, Nexstar is once again reiterating its offer of an unconditional extension of the existing distribution agreement for 30 days to restore the blacked-out programming to viewers and allow the parties to reach a new agreement.
Consumers and viewers affected by AT&T/DIRECTV’s blackout can contact AT&T/DIRECTV directly at 208 South Akard Street, Dallas, TX 75202 and by phone at 855-567-1569 or 210-821-4105.
A full copy of Senator Blumenthal’s letter is available here: Senator Blumenthal Letter July 2019.