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DirecTV business clients get antennas during TEGNA dispute

Customers who visit most Buffalo Wild Wings and Chili's restaurants won't miss local news or sports on TEGNA stations.

Customers who visit most Buffalo Wild Wings and Chili's restaurants won't miss local news or sports on TEGNA stations.

A Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Carson, California. (Photo by Alexander Migl via Wikimedia Commons)
A Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Carson, California. (Photo by Alexander Migl via Wikimedia Commons)

DirecTV installed antennas at some of its top business clients, including chain restaurants and sports bars, as it works to soften the blow of programming-related disputes involving local broadcast station owners.

Anticipating its most-recent dispute with TEGNA, DirecTV proactively installed over-the-air antennas at hundreds of Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, Dave & Busters and other businesses that subscribe to DirecTV for Business, an enterprise-level programming package that offers live sports programming like college and professional football and basketball games.

On Thursday, DirecTV customers in nearly 60 markets lost one or more of their local TV stations owned by TEGNA, the latest programming-related blackout triggered by a broadcaster looking to extract higher fees for the same set of channels, nearly all of which can be received for free with an antenna.

DirecTV for Business offers the same line-up of local broadcast stations available in DirecTV’s residential service. And, like consumers, DirecTV for Business clients are adversely impacted when broadcasters like TEGNA pull their local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates from the satellite provider in an effort to extract higher programming-related fees.

Offering antennas to business customers helps soften the blow during programming-related disputes, because those businesses won’t have to turn away sports fans who want to watch games at their local bar or restaurant, DirecTV’s Chief Programming Officer Rob Thun said on Friday.

Over the past few weeks, DirecTV prioritized chain restaurants within TEGNA’s broadcast footprint and installed antennas at those locations, so those restaurants could continue to showcase sports and news offered on TEGNA-owned stations in the event of a programming disruption, Thun said.

“We were proactive on this,” Thun said. “We’ve already done the legwork on a lot of this.”

On Thursday, DirecTV revealed it offered TEGNA an opportunity to charge whatever it wanted for access to its local broadcast stations on the satellite platform as well as DirecTV Stream, DirecTV for Internet and U-Verse. In exchange, DirecTV said it wanted the ability to relegate TEGNA-owned stations to an à la carte package, which would allow customers who didn’t want them to avoid paying higher fees.

In a statement, a TEGNA spokesperson said DirecTV’s proposal would “require its customers to pay yet another standalone fee for our local stations,” which the broadcaster characterized as a disservice to DirecTV subscribers and “not productive.”

“Our focus is on reaching a deal based on the mutually beneficial, market-based terms we have successfully negotiated with numerous distribution partners of all sizes. We have been working for months to find common ground with DirecTV,” the TEGNA spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, although TEGNA has made significant moves to narrow the gap between our positions, we have not seen a reciprocal effort on DirecTV’s part. Still, we remain available and ready to work around the clock to reach a deal when DirecTV is ready to bargain seriously.”

On Friday, Thun said DirecTV remains seriously interested in reaching a deal with TEGNA, but acknowledged there were some “fundamental disagreements on what the value of their stations are.” He affirmed there were offers to extend DirecTV’s contract to continue offering TEGNA’s stations while the two sides worked through an agreement, but those offers were rejected.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).