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DirecTV will let satellite customers opt out of local channels

Customers will get $12 off their bills if they agree to drop local stations; streaming and U-Verse subscribers are not eligible.

Customers will get $12 off their bills if they agree to drop local stations; streaming and U-Verse subscribers are not eligible.

A DirecTV satellite dish. (Photo by "Hurricane Geek" via Wikimedia Commons)
A DirecTV satellite dish. (Photo by “Hurricane Geek” via Wikimedia Commons)

DirecTV on Sunday unveiled a new feature that allows its satellite customers to opt out of receiving local stations.

The plan was integrated into a system update that allows new and existing customers to receive around $12 off their monthly subscription if they remove local channels from their subscription package.

In a statement, a DirecTV executive said the move was intended to give satellite customers greater flexibility when it comes to how much they pay for programming. Some customers prefer to receive local channels through an antenna, while others receive streaming versions of those channels offered through services like Peacock (NBC) and Paramount Plus with Showtime (CBS).

“Consumers have been voting with their wallets for years that pay TV – as currently constructed – is too expensive and restricts their choices,” Rob Thun, DirecTV’s Chief Content Officer, said in a statement. “Our new No Locals package enables customers to take an important step forward in culling out certain types of content they may no longer care to watch and better balance the price they are willing to pay.”

Existing satellite customers who want to remove local channels from their package can do by logging onto their account through the DirecTV website. New customers will have the option of opting out of local channels when they sign up for service.

For the moment, the No Locals package is only available to DirecTV via Satellite customers, a spokesperson confirmed to The Desk by email. The option is not available to DirecTV via Internet, DirecTV Stream and U-Verse (formerly AT&T U-Verse) customers, who will continue to receive — and pay for — local channels if their programming plans include them.

In some major markets like New York City and Los Angeles, the local stations are owned by the major broadcast networks. When asked if those customers will also be able to opt out of receiving local channels, a person familiar with the matter said they would, saying the decision to remove local channels from their packages will not impact their ability to receive co-owned national networks.

A spokesperson declined to offer specifics on how the company came up with the $12 per month discount. In the past, DirecTV said local channels tend to cost the average pay TV consumer around $20 per month in their bills, though the figure — based on information from SNL Kagan — included cable and other types of pay TV services.

Over the past few years, cable and satellite customers have raised their prices to offset higher programming-related fees charges by local broadcasters and national cable network programmers. The broadcasters say the fee adjustments are based on how much they feel their programming is worth, but the demands generally lead to disputes that see customers lose one or more of their local channels for weeks or months at a time.

Such was the case last year when DirecTV was forced to pull stations owned and operated by Nexstar Media Group, leaving millions of subscribers without access to one or more ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliate throughout most of the country. The dispute was settled about two months later.

Last December, around 40 TEGNA-owned broadcast outlets were dropped from DirecTV over similar fee demands. At the time, DirecTV said it was willing to offer TEGNA channels on an à la carte basis, an arrangement TEGNA turned down.

The move on Sunday gets DirecTV closer to that à la carte offering, though satellite customers won’t be able to pick and choose which local stations they want: Their options are limited to taking all local stations, or receiving none of them via satellite.

The new perk is not unique to DirecTV: For years, rival satellite platform Dish Network has offered a “Flex Pack” option that allows customers to subscribe to a few dozen national networks, then tack on local channels for a separate fee.

The fee that Dish Network charges for local channels through Flex Pack? $12 per month.

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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 10 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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