Nexstar Media Group has forced pay television provider DirecTV to pull more than 200 local broadcast stations from its satellite and streaming services.
The stations went dark Sunday afternoon, affecting dozens of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW network affiliates along with a handful of MyNetwork and independent stations.
The channels were dropped after a contract between Nexstar and DirecTV expired, with no new carriage agreement in place. Late last week, DirecTV warned it might be forced to drop the channels after Nexstar demanded higher fees for the continued carriage of their stations.
“Nexstar has a long track record of forcing programming outages in an effort to unnecessarily raise prices for everyone at the expense of the communities they are licensed and entrusted to serve,” Rob Thun, the chief content officer at DirecTV, said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Nexstar to reach an agreement and will take all necessary actions to provide our customers access to their favorite programming while protecting them from unwarranted price increases.”
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DirecTV also filed a formal objection with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), challenging Nexstar’s operational control of dozens of TV stations owned by Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting. The objection contained many of the same complaints as DirecTV’s antitrust lawsuit that was filed against Nexstar earlier this year, in which the satellite platform accuses Nexstar of using Mission and White Knight as a proxy to circumvent federal ownership rules and other regulations.
For its part, Nexstar says it complies with all laws, and while it does not dispute that it is asking for more money for the same set of stations, it says the fees — whatever they may be — are comparable to what they’re charging other pay TV systems.
“Nexstar has been negotiating tirelessly and in good faith in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable multi-year contract with DirecTV since May, offering the same fair market rates it offered to other distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations in the past year,” a Nexstar spokesperson said in a statement. “Nexstar routinely reaches amicable retransmission and carriage agreements with its cable, satellite, and telco partners — in the last three years alone, the company has successfully completed agreements with more than 500 distribution partners.”
But Nexstar has also engaged in carriage disputes with other providers, including Dish Network (with respect to Mission and White Knight stations; Nexstar negotiates carriage agreements on their behalf, which is one area DirecTV is challenging through their antitrust lawsuit), Verizion Fios and Comcast.
The dispute between Nexstar and DirecTV also involves the upstart cable channel NewsNation, which was carried on the satellite and streaming service until Sunday. It also impacts customers of AT&T U-Verse, which is owned by DirecTV.
A spokesperson for DirecTV said the company will continue to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a new deal with Nexstar.