A renewed agreement between Nexstar Media Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group has allowed nearly three dozen CW Network affiliates owned by the latter to be restored to streaming service DirecTV.
The deal announced last week concerned Sinclair’s carriage of CW Network programming on 35 stations, including 10 that it operates under shared services agreements on behalf of other broadcast companies.
Since early July, Sinclair’s CW Network affiliates have been unavailable to subscribers of DirecTV’s streaming service following a broader dispute that has seen dozens of Nexstar-owned stations blacked out on DirecTV’s satellite and streaming platforms.
While the Sinclair stations were not directly involved in Nexstar and DirecTV’s spat, Nexstar demanded DirecTV stop streaming its CW Network prime-time and sports programming on Sinclair-owned stations, arguing that Nexstar was allowed to negotiate carriage of that programming on Sinclair’s behalf.
The arrangement is not too different from similar distribution deals involving streaming services and the major broadcast networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. The owners of those networks also negotiate carriage of local broadcast stations on streaming services, rather than the owners of local stations themselves. By contrast, local broadcast owners typically negotiate carriage of their channels on traditional cable and satellite services.
In filings with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Nexstar has urged government regulators to impose certain carriage rules on streaming services as they are applied to cable and satellite platforms, including a requirement that streaming companies negotiate carriage of local broadcast stations directly with station owners, rather than with the networks.
Nexstar is now leading by example, allowing Sinclair to negotiate carriage of its CW Network affiliates directly with streaming services like DirecTV, which resumed offering the channels in full in late August. The same deal renewed CW Network affiliation agreements for Sinclair-owned stations, and allowed Nexstar to move its CW Network affiliation to two new Sinclair stations — one in Seattle, the other in Pittsburgh.
While the deal between Nexstar and Sinclair benefits DirecTV in part, it is unlikely to ease tensions between Nexstar and DirecTV. In addition to its ongoing carriage dispute involving Nexstar-owned stations, DirecTV is moving forward with an antitrust lawsuit filed earlier this year that accuses Nexstar of illegally colluding with two other companies — White Knight Broadcasting and Mission Broadcasting — to raise carriage fees for its channels. Nexstar operates all channels owned by White Knight and Mission through shared services agreements.
DirecTV has also come out in opposition to a proposal acquisition of a low-rated Detroit TV station by Mission Broadcasting, a purchase that is being bankrolled by Nexstar. The FCC has yet to approve the deal.