Customers of AT&T’s pay television services could be without one or more local channels at the beginning of next month.
Broadcaster TEGNA is warning viewers that its agreement with AT&T-owned satellite service DirecTV and fiber TV outlet AT&T U-Verse lapses on November 30 — and it isn’t clear if both sides will reach an agreement to keep the channels on before then.
The issue is similar to one that has repeated itself many times over the last few years involving a programmer, a distributor and carriage fees that are paid for the right to distribute channels on cable, satellite or over the Internet.
In this case, AT&T pays TEGNA a certain amount of money to carry more than five dozen local broadcast stations in 54 regional television markets. The fee AT&T pays is eventually passed on to DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse customers.
In recent years, programmers have asked distributors to pay more money for their channels. Distributors like AT&T have resisted those requests as the services face a mass exodus of customers away from expensive cable and satellite packages toward cheaper options.
TEGNA says AT&T has “refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us,” echoing a line used by other broadcast station owners during similar disputes with other distributors.
AT&T has not issued a comment about the situation.
A blackout would affect two TEGNA-owned channels in California:
- ABC affiliate KXTV (Channel 10) in Sacramento, and;
- CBS affiliate KFMB (Channel 8) in San Diego.
The potential dispute comes as AT&T’s rival Dish Network becomes embroiled in a similar carriage fight of its own involving Nexstar Media Group, one of the biggest operators of local broadcast stations in the country. Both sides are squabbling over similar terms and carriage fees in exchange for the right to distribute more than 160 channels to Dish Network’s 11 million pay TV users.