As of Tuesday evening, more than five dozen local stations in 51 regional television markets were dropped from satellite service DirecTV and fiber pay TV system AT&T U-Verse after negotiations between TEGNA and AT&T failed to produce a new carriage agreement.
In competing statements, both companies blamed the other side for an absence of a deal.
TEGNA says AT&T has “refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us,” echoing a line used by other broadcast station owners during similar disputes with other distributors.
AT&T, on the other hand, began running graphics on blacked-out TEGNA stations saying they were disappointed the broadcaster didn’t work with the company to continue serving up the stations to its pay TV customers.
In recent years, programmers have asked distributors to pay more money for their channels. Distributors like AT&T have resisted those requests as the services face a mass exodus of customers away from expensive cable and satellite packages toward cheaper options.
Programmers like TEGNA have said their fee requests are reasonable based on how much it costs them to secure entertainment and sports rights coupled with affiliate fees that must be paid to networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.
The dispute comes as AT&T’s rival Dish Network becomes embroiled in a similar carriage fight of its own involving Nexstar Media Group, one of the biggest operators of local broadcast stations in the country. Both sides are squabbling over similar terms and carriage fees in exchange for the right to distribute more than 160 channels to Dish Network’s 11 million pay TV users.