IRVING, Texas – United States Senators John Thune of South Dakota and John Kennedy of Louisiana join Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal as well as legislators from West Virginia, Ohio, South Dakota, Massachusetts, New York and Alabama in issuing letters urging direct broadcast satellite service provider DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse to immediately restore carriage of Nexstar-owned stations.
In his July 8, 2019 letter Senator Thune stated, “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.” Similarly, in a letter directed to AT&T’s CEO, Senator Kennedy cites the probable impact to consumers in Louisiana at the height of hurricane season, stating “I am concerned that your failure to reach an agreement is negatively impacting Louisiana families. 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.” In closing, Senator Kennedy requests of AT&T, “I encourage you to accept Nexstar’s offer of a short-term extension while you resolve your differences.”
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In New York, U.S. Congressman Anthony Brindisi issued a public statement calling on “…cable giant AT&T to negotiate in good faith with local broadcasters to continue to deliver local programming to their viewers. As thousands of Upstate New Yorkers lost access to their local television station this weekend, Brindisi went to bat for the local viewers. Local television provides critical programming for folks all across our district,” Brindisi said. “These blackouts are a public safety issue. Many New Yorkers use local television to find out about breaking news, traffic accidents, and important weather events. These blackouts need to end.”
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 Louisiana as well as all other affected markets to view their favorite network shows, special events, sports, local news and other programming while the parties continue to negotiate.
Since AT&T removed scores of local Nexstar Broadcasting television stations, viewers across the United States have expressed their outrage at AT&T/DIRECTV complaining about the loss of critical and lifesaving information as well as the loss of holiday programming and the US Women’s National Soccer Team’s historic World Cup finals game win which brought Team USA their fourth title. Since AT&T’s removal of the Nexstar stations, viewers have been denied access to over 2,400 hours of local news. Tonight, viewers in 20 local markets will be unable to watch the 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star Game through their AT&T/DIRECTV subscriptions.
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. Nexstar stands by its offer to permit AT&T to relaunch its stations on DIRECTV and AT&T Uverse through August 8 while the parties continue negotiations.
A little more than a year after putting DIRECTV together with Time Warner, AT&T appears intent on using its new market power to prioritize its own content at the expense of consumers, and insisting on unreasonable and extreme terms that are inconsistent with the market. As measured by stock market capitalizations, AT&T is approximately 50 times larger than Nexstar. As Senator Blumenthal noted in his letter dated July 5, “This cutoff seems to have the sole purpose of enhancing DirecTV bargaining leverage – with severe harm to Connecticut consumers.”
The only conclusion that can be drawn from DIRECTV/AT&T’s refusal to accept Nexstar’s offer of an extension is that rather than working on behalf of their subscribers, AT&T-DIRECTV continues to raise prices while reducing channels and content offerings. 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, 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, among others.
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 deeply regrets DIRECTV/AT&T’s decision to deprive viewers in the affected markets of broadcasts of leading network content from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW, and MyNetworkTV as well as local news and other programming produced specifically for these local communities and will continue to try to reach a fair agreement with AT&T/DIRECTV and allow its viewers to receive their local stations again.
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. Viewers affected by the loss of service from DIRECTV have several alternatives to continue watching their favorite shows including local cable providers, DISH, over-the-air, certain subscription streaming television services, and services such as Verizon’s FIOS.
A full copy of Senator Thune’s letter is available here: Senator Thune Letter July 2019.
A full copy of Senator Kennedy’s letter to AT&T’s CEO is available here: Senator Kennedy Letter July 2019.
Congressman Brindisi’s statement regarding the matter is available at: https://brindisi.house.gov/media/press-releases/brindisi-calls-cable-company-end-blackouts-behalf-local-consumers.