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Discussions continue between DirecTV, Nexstar, but no deal yet

Nexstar Media Group and DirecTV are continuing to discuss the terms of a new agreement that would allow millions of satellite and streaming customers to once again access over 160 local TV stations and NewsNation that have been unavailable for months, a Nexstar executive confirmed on Wednesday.

The channels were pulled from DirecTV’s satellite and streaming platforms in July, leaving vast parts of the country without access to one or more local broadcast stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the CW Network on the pay TV service. The programming blackout followed the expiration of a distribution agreement that allows DirecTV to legally offer those Nexstar-owned channels to its customers.

Speaking at an investor conference on Wednesday, Nexstar’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Carter said both companies are still holding active talks about the matter, with the goal of resolving the situation.

“We’ve been in constant contact the last several weeks, and progress has been made,” Carter said on Wednesday. “The expectation is that we will reach an agreement at some point, sooner rather than later.”

The dispute has pushed its way into the start of the National Football League season, with DirecTV viewers unable to watch local games aired on CBS and Fox stations owned by Nexstar, and nationally-televised games on Nexstar-owned ABC and NBC affiliates. Viewers have also lost access to live local news broadcasts from outlets owned by Nexstar, which made the decision earlier this year to time-delay streaming versions of its newscasts at nearly all of its stations.

The situation is also impacting DirecTV’s enterprise customers, who subscribe to a version of the satellite product called DirecTV for Business. While DirecTV for Business is distributing the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package to restaurants, bars and other establishments, its enterprise customers don’t have access to locally-televised games on Nexstar-owned stations during the blackout.

As is typical in disputes like these, the impasse centers around programming-related fees that DirecTV must pay Nexstar in exchange for the right to distribute its channels to satellite and streaming subscribers. Nexstar has demanded higher fees for the same portfolio of broadcast stations and NewsNation, DirecTV says, which would ultimately get passed along to subscribers in the form of higher bills.

Nexstar doesn’t dispute it wants more money for its channels. Instead, it says the fees reflect the value of the programming it provides, and accuses DirecTV of using its customers as a bargaining chip in its negotiations.

Fee-related disputes have become more common over the last few years as broadcasters demand more money for their channels and pay TV platforms resist those efforts.

Earlier this month, Charter Communications pulled several broadcast and cable channels owned by the Walt Disney Company from its Spectrum TV platform over a demand for higher fees. The situation was resolved on Monday when Charter said it reached an agreement that allowed it to drop several Disney-owned channels and provide free access to the ad-supported version of streaming services Disney Plus and ESPN Plus.

Late last week, DirecTV competitor Dish Network said it was forced to remove around three dozen broadcast stations owned by Hearst Television over a similar request for higher programming fees. In addition to its dispute with Hearst, Dish has also pulled local channels owned by Mission Broadcasting and Cox Media Group, as well as most regional sports networks.

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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).