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DirecTV, Nexstar finalize new channel carriage deal

The deal brings more than 160 local broadcast stations owned by Nexstar back to DirecTV's satellite and streaming service, but some Nexstar-controlled channels are still missing.

The deal brings more than 160 local broadcast stations owned by Nexstar back to DirecTV's satellite and streaming service, but some Nexstar-controlled channels are still missing.

DirecTV and broadcaster Nexstar Media Group have finalized a new distribution agreement that restores more than 160 local channels that have been unavailable for the better part of two months.

The finalized deal came early Monday morning, about 24 hours after DirecTV said Nexstar had agreed to allow it to return its local ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW Network broadcast stations to its satellite and streaming services in time for Sunday morning, afternoon and evening football games.

The deal also allows DirecTV to distribute the upstart cable news channel NewsNation on a national basis once again. NewsNation has sought lucrative carriage deals with cable and streaming platforms in order to better compete against the Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN.

Neither company revealed specific terms of the deal. Over the last few weeks, DirecTV accused Nexstar of demanding more money in exchange for the same line-up of broadcast channels and NewsNation, which the satellite company said would drive up prices for its subscribers.

“Unfortunately, over the past decade-plus access to your programming has become a battleground for networks and stations to try to drive up higher rates,” Bill Morrow, the CEO of DirecTV, said in a note distributed to customers on Monday. “As our customers, we recognize that while you may be able to access some programming over-the-air or on a streaming service during these periods, that is not the experience you expect.”

The months-long programming blackout began in early July, after a distribution agreement between DirecTV and Nexstar expired, with no new deal in place. The situation meant large parts of the country were forced to go without one or more of their local broadcast channels owned by Nexstar, unless they sought an alternative way to view those channels, like installing an antenna or switching to a different service.

The issue also meant thousands of enterprise customers who subscribe to DirecTV for Business were unable to provide their patrons with access to some broadcast network programming for weeks. Those enterprise subscribers include restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings and Chili’s, who maintain DirecTV satellite equipment in their establishments from the days when the company was the exclusive home of the NFL Sunday Ticket package, which unlocks access to football games aired on CBS and Fox beyond a viewer’s home area.

That package has since moved to Google-owned YouTube, which distributes it through the YouTube app and the streaming cable TV replacement YouTube TV. DirecTV still offers the package to enterprise customers.

While businesses were still able to watch out-of-market games, some were not able to offer in-market football games aired on network affiliates owned by Nexstar. In the Sacramento area, the first game played by the San Francisco 49ers this season was unavailable to DirecTV for Business subscribers because the game aired on a local Fox affiliate owned by Nexstar.

A DirecTV satellite installation van. (Photo by Mike Mozart via Wikimedia Commons)
A DirecTV satellite installation van. (Photo by Mike Mozart via Wikimedia Commons)

It wasn’t clear what impact the dispute between DirecTV and Nexstar had on the satellite company’s enterprise subscribers, or what support DirecTV provided them during the issue. Shortly after The Desk reached out to a DirecTV spokesperson about the matter, the company published a blog post marketing itself as the destination with the most live football for business customers, while affirming that some customers might not have access to their hometown football games (the company suggested those customers use a network streaming service or buy an antenna).

Some Nexstar-Controlled Stations Still Unavailable

While the situation involving Nexstar-owned channels remains solved for now, there are still around three dozen broadcast channels controlled by Nexstar that are unavailable on DirecTV. And they remain at the center of a protracted legal battle between the two companies that is still winding its way through federal court.

The channels are owned and licensed to Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting, whose broadcast assets are wholly controlled by Nexstar through shared services agreements. They have been unavailable to DirecTV’s satellite and streaming subscribers since last October, when a carriage deal covering those channels expired.

The stations are operated through shared services agreements with Nexstar, which gives the broadcaster complete operational control over every part of their business. In addition to hiring staff and selling advertisements, Nexstar also negotiates carriage of Mission and White Knight-owned channels with cable and satellite companies — something DirecTV says is a violation of the law.

In March, DirecTV filed an antitrust lawsuit against Nexstar, saying its negotiation of carriage agreements on behalf of Mission and White Knight amounted to an illegal conspiracy that was aimed at driving up wholesale prices of its owned and controlled stations. For its part, Nexstar says everything it does with respect to the Mission and White Knight channels is in compliance with the law.

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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).