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TEGNA rejected extensions to prevent blackout, DirecTV exec says

One proposal would have kept TEGNA's 60-plus local stations on DirecTV through Super Bowl weekend, but the offer was turned down.

One proposal would have kept TEGNA's 60-plus local stations on DirecTV through Super Bowl weekend, but the offer was turned down.

The studios of KUSA-TV in Denver, Colorado, one of over 60 television stations owned by TEGNA. (Photo via Google Street View)
The studios of KUSA-TV in Denver, Colorado, one of over 60 television stations owned by TEGNA. (Photo via Google Street View)


TEGNA rejected at least two proposals that would have allowed DirecTV to continue carrying dozens of local broadcast stations across the country while both sides worked toward a new programming agreement, a senior level DirecTV executive said on Friday.

The proposals included a long-term extension that would have kept TEGNA’s 60-plus station portfolio on DirecTV and its other services like U-Verse through at least mid-February, which would have allowed customers to watch local news, syndicated shows and pro sports like the Super Bowl on TEGNA-owned CBS affiliates while both sides worked toward a new agreement, DirecTV’s Chief Programming Officer Rob Thun said in an interview with The Desk.

The extension would have included a stipulation that DirecTV pay TEGNA for carriage of its stations dating back to the expiration of its most-recent contract, which lapsed on November 30, with the rate set at whatever price TEGNA and DirecTV settled on as part of a more-permanent agreement, Thun said.

TEGNA rejected that proposal as well as a similar one that would have kept its stations on DirecTV within a shorter window of time, Thun said, and instead decided to black out its local stations on DirecTV, U-Verse and other DirecTV-owned services on Thursday.

In a statement, a TEGNA spokesperson said it engaged with DirecTV for months with the hopes of finalizing a new, permanent contract for carriage of its local TV stations, but DirecTV was unwilling to accept what the broadcaster calls “a fair, market-based agreement.”

Instead, DirecTV put forward a proposal that would have allowed the satellite company to offer TEGNA’s stations on an à la carte basis to customers. The channels would be priced at whatever rate TEGNA wanted, but customers would be allowed to opt out of receiving them if they didn’t want to pay the higher fees, DirecTV said.

“Our focus is on reaching a deal based on the mutually beneficial, market-based terms we have successfully negotiated with numerous distribution partners of all sizes,” a TEGNA spokesperson said in a statement to The Desk on Friday. “Unfortunately, although TEGNA has made significant moves to narrow the gap between our positions, we have not seen a reciprocal effort on DirecTV’s part. Still, we remain available and ready to work around the clock to reach a deal when DirecTV is ready to bargain seriously.”

Thun said DirecTV and TEGNA continue to hold discussions with the goal of reaching a new agreement, but said the broadcaster’s demand for more money isn’t justified based on their market position.

“We have a fundamental disagreement on what the value of their stations are,” Thun affirmed. “They claim their market price is what others have been willing to pay, and we claim the market prices — the broader sample size of the 198 markets that we service, and knowing those deals across those markets — you guys are an outlier, TEGNA, and we don’t think you deserve a premium just because your local station is owned by you.”

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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).