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A quick guide to the dispute between DirecTV and Nexstar Media Group

DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse subscribers across the country have been without one or more of their local broadcast stations owned or operated by Nexstar Media Group since the start of July.

The issue stems from a contract, known as a retransmission consent agreement, that allowed DirecTV to redistribute more than 160 Nexstar-owned ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates along with independent and CW Network-owned stations. The contract requires DirecTV to pay Nexstar for the rights to redistribute its channels to satellite, streaming and U-Verse customers, with DirecTV passing along the cost of programming to customers in their bills.

On June 30, 2023, DirecTV’s contract with Nexstar to carry its local stations and the national news upstart NewsNation expired, and both sides were unable to agree on a new contract to keep the channels on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and AT&T U-Verse. Because Nexstar legally owns the rights to the programming that airs on its local stations and NewsNation, DirecTV was forced to pull the channels off its satellite, streaming and U-Verse services.

DirecTV says Nexstar wants more money in exchange for the right to carry the affected channels. Nexstar doesn’t dispute this, instead saying the broadcaster’s demands are “fair” and accusing DirecTV of holding customers “hostage.” DirecTV has offered $10 credits to customers who have lost one or more Nexstar-owned stations while the dispute continues.

Ultimately, this situation comes down to a battle between two large companies — DirecTV is the biggest pay TV service by customer base, and Nexstar is the largest owner of local television stations in the country. The situation has many DirecTV and U-Verse customers upset that they are no longer able to watch their favorite ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC or CW Network programming, as well as syndicated shows and local news in most areas. This guide is intended to help affected DirecTV and U-Verse customers learn more about what’s going on, what options they have to voice their concern and alternative ways to watch their favorite local channels.


Table of Contents


The major cities where Nexstar Media Group owns or operates one or more local television stations. (Courtesy image)
The major cities where Nexstar Media Group owns or operates one or more local television stations. (Courtesy image)

Who are DirecTV, U-Verse and Nexstar Media Group?

DirecTV is the largest provider of pay television service by customer base in the country. The company operates three separate but related television services: DirecTV satellite, DirecTV streaming and AT&T U-Verse. The company is majority-owned by AT&T (70 percent), while investment firm TPG Capital has a minority stake (30 percent). DirecTV is headquartered in El Segundo, California.

Nexstar Media Group is the largest independent owner of local television stations in the country, with more than 160 licensed broadcast TV stations and around 40 more stations that it operates through partnership with White Knight Broadcasting and Mission Broadcasting. Nexstar also owns and operates the cable news upstart NewsNation (formerly WGN America), and holds a majority ownership stake in the CW Network (75 percent). Nexstar is headquartered in Irving, Texas.


Why did DirecTV drop Nexstar-owned channels?

Cable and satellite companies, including DirecTV, can only provide local and national channels on their platforms with the permission of the companies that own those stations or networks. Satellite and streaming services like DirecTV typically must pay fees to the owners of local and cable channels, including Nexstar, if they want to provide those channels to customers.

Broadcasters like Nexstar almost always demand a fee from cable or satellite platforms in exchange for the right to provide channels to TV subscribers. Historically, these fees have been relatively small, but over the last decade, broadcasters like Nexstar have demanded more money from cable and satellite companies for those same channels.

Cable and satellite companies, including DirecTV, pass along the cost of programming to customers in their bills. Higher fees paid to broadcasters like Nexstar are one of the key reasons why cable and satellite bills have increased over the years. DirecTV and other companies have recently started fighting back against these bill increases by rejecting requests for higher fees from broadcasters like Nexstar — but, in doing so, DirecTV loses the right to redistribute Nexstar-owned channels until the two have an agreement in place.


A television studio used by Disney-owned ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco. (Photo via Google Maps, Graphic by The Desk)
A television studio used by Disney-owned ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco. (Photo via Google Maps, Graphic by The Desk)

Does the law require DirecTV to provide local broadcast channels?

No. Satellite and streaming companies, including DirecTV, are not required by law to provide local broadcast channels anywhere. But many of them do provide these channels because they know customers want access to local news, live sports and general entertainment shows that are available on their local broadcast stations.

The situation is different with cable companies. Cable companies are not required to carry a local broadcast channel, unless the channel demands it. This is known as “must-carry,” and it only applies when a local broadcast channel has given up its right to demand a fee for its programming. Commercial broadcasters like Nexstar almost never elect for “must-carry,” and instead demand fees from cable companies for their channels. Satellite broadcasters are not subject to this particular “must-carry” rule at all.


A rooftop antenna. (Photo by "flrnt" via Flickr/Creative Commons, Graphic by The Desk)
A rooftop antenna. (Photo by “flrnt” via Flickr/Creative Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Why does DirecTV charge for channels that I can receive for free with an antenna?

Because those channels are not free to DirecTV. The company must pay a fee to the local broadcast station’s owner — in this case, Nexstar — in exchange for the right to provide its customers with access to those channels. Those programming-related fees get passed along to customers in the form of higher bills. As companies like Nexstar demand higher fees, DirecTV raises its subscription fees, accordingly.

DirecTV and other cable and satellite broadcasters feel these programming-related fees are too high, and they’ve decided to reject demands for higher payments to broadcasters like Nexstar. But, in doing so, they’re also forced to pull local and national channels from their service until a new agreement is in place.


Nexstar's annual revenue and profit between 2020 and 2022. (Graphic by DirecTV, Courtesy image)
Nexstar’s annual revenue and profit between 2020 and 2022. (Graphic by DirecTV, Courtesy image)

Doesn’t DirecTV make enough money off subscribers? Why not just sign a deal with Nexstar and get things over with?

DirecTV has actually lost money over the last few years, due in large part to higher programming-related fees that have driven up subscription prices and ultimately convinced customers to leave the satellite and streaming service for other options.

Meanwhile, Nexstar has seen its revenue grow during the same time period. In 2020, Nexstar earned $808.1 million in profit on $4.5 billion in revenue. Last year, those numbers grew to $943.5 million in profit on $5.2 billion in revenue.

During a recent conference call with investors, Nexstar CEO Perry Sook suggested the company had leverage to extract higher fees from cable and satellite companies for its channels.

“You have an inferior offering in the marketplace, if you don’t have the local stations,” Sook said. “I think that should tell you everything you need to know about the leverage in these discussions. And, so, if it means we have to go dark for a little while to make that point, I think our company, as well as others in the industry, have made the value judgment to do that.”

In other words, Nexstar is perfectly fine with DirecTV and other cable and satellite customers losing access to one or more local TV stations, if, in the end, those pay TV platforms are strong-armed into paying higher fees for those channels. And those higher fees will get passed on to cable and satellite customers in the form of higher bills.


The CBS Building in New York City.
The CBS Building in New York City. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Why can’t DirecTV simply offer a different ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC or CW Network affiliate from another city?

Federal laws protect a broadcaster’s right to distribute their local channels in any given area. That means, if Nexstar owns your local ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC or CW Network affiliate, DirecTV can’t “import” another network affiliate from a different city or region to make up for the loss of Nexstar-owned stations, unless it has permission from Nexstar to do so.

In some cases, cable and satellite companies can replace a dropped television station with a national programming feed offered by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC or CW Network. Some streaming services, including Vidgo and Fubo, currently do this or have done this in the past when one or more local TV stations is unavailable on their platform.

It is not clear if DirecTV will replace local TV stations with national network feeds. Even if they do, viewers still will not have access to syndicated programming and local news broadcasts on DirecTV and U-Verse that are exclusive to Nexstar-owned stations.


Can I get a credit on my DirecTV or U-Verse bill for the missing Nexstar channels?

Yes, DirecTV is offering satellite, streaming and U-Verse customers a $10 monthly bill credit to make up for the loss of Nexstar-owned ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW Network stations. However, the credit is not automatic — you must request it.

If you are a DirecTV satellite or AT&T U-Verse customer, you can request your $10 bill credit on this website. If you are a DirecTV streaming customer, you can get your $10 bill credit on this website.

Only DirecTV or U-Verse customers who have lost one or more local channel owned by Nexstar are eligible for the bill credit.


A DirecTV satellite installation van in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. (Photo by Dwight Burdette via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

How do I contact DirecTV and Nexstar to express my thoughts on the situation?

Nexstar is a publicy-traded company, and has multiple lines of contact open for investors and members of the public to reach out with questions or concerns about their business, including programming deals.

Nexstar’s Chief Communications Officer is Gary Weitman, who conducts outreach and receives questions and comments from members of the media, investors and the public on Nexstar’s business. To contact Gary, e-mail [email protected] or call Nexstar Media at 1-972-373-8800.

Nexstar’s CEO is Perry Sook, who can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected]. The company’s chief financial officer, Tom Carter, can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

DirecTV is majority-owned by AT&T. The company has set up a website, TVPromise.com, where customers can learn more about what the satellite and streaming company is doing to restore Nexstar-owned channels to DirecTV satellite, DirecTV Stream and U-Verse. You can also call DirecTV’s customer service line at 1-800-531-5000 or reach out to DirecTV’s customer support staff on Facebook or Twitter.


A Fubo TV guide listing shows an event for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
A Fubo TV guide listing shows an event for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. (Graphic by The Desk)

How do I watch my local Nexstar-owned station without DirecTV or U-Verse?

If your local ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC or CW Network affiliate is missing on DirecTV or U-Verse because of the situation with Nexstar, you still have options to watch your local newscast, live sports and network programming.

The simplest way to watch your local ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC or CW Network affiliate is with an over-the-air antenna. Under federal law, all TV sets made after March 2007 are required to have digital tuners installed. By hooking up an over-the-air TV antenna, you can unlock dozens of free broadcast stations, including ones that aren’t carried on DirecTV. We recommend Mohu antennas because they are inexpensive and easy to use. If you live in or near a major city, you should purchase a standard Mohu antenna; if you live 20 miles or more outside a major city, or in an area with differing terrain, consider buying an amplified antenna to pull in weak signals.

If you live in an area where broadcast signals are unreliable, or you simply prefer to stream your TV, you have a number of options:

  • Local CBS affiliates (including sports and local news) are available on Paramount Plus with Showtime, which costs $12 a month or $120 a year and also thousands of on-demand movies and TV shows from Showtime, CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, TV Land and BET.
  • Local NBC affiliates (including sports and local news) are available on the Premiere Plus version of Peacock, which costs $10 a month or $100 a year.
  • Local ABC affiliates are available on Vidgo ($70 a month) or Fubo ($75 a month), as well as YouTube TV ($73 a month) and Hulu with Live TV ($70 a month). In areas where a local ABC affiliate isn’t available on streaming, Vidgo provides a national network feed of ABC news, daytime, prime-time and late-night programming.
  • Local Fox affiliates are available on Vidgo ($70 a month) or Fubo ($75 a month), as well as YouTube TV ($73 a month) and Hulu with Live TV ($70 a month).
  • Local CW Network affiliates, including KTLA (Channel 5, Los Angeles) and WPIX (Channel 11, New York City), are available on YouTube TV ($73 a month).
  • Fox and ABC prime-time programming is available on Hulu, which costs $8 a month with ads or $15 a month without. A bundle that includes Disney Plus and ESPN Plus is also available for about $5 more.
  • CBS prime-time programming is available on Paramount Plus, which costs $6 a month with short advertisements or $12 for a premium, commercial free version that also includes Showtime.
  • NewsNation is available as a live stream on Level News, which costs $6 a month and also includes live access to Bloomberg, Law & Crime Network, NHK World, France 24 and three C-SPAN channels.

Last, you can switch to another cable or satellite provider in your area, though this might be difficult to do if you currently have a service contract with DirecTV. If you aren’t under a term limit, or you don’t mind paying early termination fees for your contract, consider switching to another provider, including:


To learn more about carriage disputes between pay television providers and broadcasters, visit www.carriagedispute.com.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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