Verizon is warning customers of its pay television service that they could lose access to local stations owned by Nexstar Media Group by the end of the week.
The issue stems from ongoing discussions between the two companies over the fee Verizon will pay in exchange for the right to provide more than a dozen Nexstar-owned local TV stations, as well as the upstart cable news network NewsNation.
In a message sent to customers earlier this month, Verizon warned that Nexstar was requesting a 64 percent fee hike in exchange for the right to provide its channels to Verizon Fios customers.
“Verizon remains committed to making these channels available to our customers, but simply cannot agree to such unreasonable increases,” a spokesperson for Verizon said this week.
Verizon primarily offers its Fios TV and Internet service in the northeastern part of the country. In addition to NewsNation, Verizon said the following major local channels will be pulled by October 14 if it cannot reach a new agreement with Nexstar before then:
- WPIX (Channel 11, CW) in New York metro area
- WSYR (Channel 9, ABC) in Syracuse
- WTEN (Channel 10, ABC) in Albany
- WPRI (Channel 12, CBS) in Providence, RI
- WIVB Channel 4, CBS) in Buffalo
- WPHL (Channel 17) in Philadelphia
- WDCW (Channel 50, CW) in Washington, D.C.
- WHTM (Channel 10, ABC) in Harrisburg
- WRIC (Channel 8, ABC) in Richmond, VA
- WAVY (Channel 10, NBC) in Norfolk
- WVBT (Channel 5, Fox) in Norfolk
In areas where Verizon Fios carries digital sub-channels of the above local stations, those digital channels will also be pulled, the company affirmed. The move will mean customers in some markets will lose access to Antenna TV, Comet, Court TV, Grit, Bounce TV and Cozi TV, though only if the networks are carried by a Nexstar-owned station.
Nexstar did not dispute it was seeking a price hike from Verizon in exchange for the privilege of carrying its stations. Instead, a company spokesperson said Nexstar is “simply seeking fair market rates for the live sports, local news, and high-quality entertainment programming we provide to millions of viewers across the country.”
“We have a long track record of negotiating fairly and avoiding service interruptions in our markets, and we hope to reach an agreement with Verizon Fios soon,” the spokesperson said. “We don’t want the viewers in our local markets to miss any of this weekend’s college or NFL football games, or any of the other valuable programming we provide.”
Nexstar’s last major carriage dispute was with Dish Network, the satellite and streaming company that is notorious for dropping channels when programmers request higher fees. In that instance, Dish Network was forced to pull around 160 local broadcast stations from its platforms.
At the time, a Dish Network executive accused Nexstar of demanding over $1 billion in fees in exchange for the right to carry its programming, with an executive noting many of Nexstar’s channels were available to customers for free with a simple antenna.
The dispute between Dish Network and Nexstar lasted for over two weeks before the channels were finally restored.