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TEGNA pulls stations off DirecTV; satellite company offers a-la-carte terms

Nearly 70 local broadcast stations have been dropped from DirecTV's satellite and streaming platforms for the second time in three years.

Nearly 70 local broadcast stations have been dropped from DirecTV's satellite and streaming platforms for the second time in three years.

Behind-the-scenes look at KXTV ABC10's news set debuting in July 2022.
A behind-the-scenes look at a news set used by TEGNA-owned KXTV. (Image courtesy KXTV/TEGNA, Graphic by The Desk)

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Nearly 70 local television stations owned by Virginia-based broadcaster TEGNA were removed from DirecTV’s satellite and streaming platforms on Thursday after a carriage agreement covering those channels expired without a new deal in place.

The situation was forewarned by TEGNA in statements made to viewers as recently as last Saturday, in which the broadcaster predicted it might reach an impasse with DirecTV over terms related to fees that the satellite and streaming service must pay for carriage of its local channels.

In a statement sent to The Desk late Thursday evening, a TEGNA spokesperson said both sides have been working toward a new agreement for months, but ultimately blamed DirecTV for failing to agree to a new contract that the broadcaster viewed as a “fair, market-based agreement.”

“As a result, DirecTV and U-Verse customers will lose access to NFL and college football conference championship games, as well as some of the most popular national network programming and top-rated local news,” the spokesperson said. “We urge DirecTV to continue to negotiate with us until a deal is reached that restores our stations to their customer.”

Later in the evening, a DirecTV spokesperson offered some indication that both sides are still working behind closed doors with the goal of getting a new agreement in place. To that end, the company said it offered TEGNA a new type of agreement that would allow the broadcaster to charge whatever it wanted for its stations, as long as DirecTV and U-Verse customers could opt out of receiving those channels if they didn’t want them.

The approach is different from how local stations are typically offered to customers: Broadcasters generally require their local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates to be included in base programming packages, which means all customers have to pay for them, even if they don’t want the channels or prefer to receive them for free with an antenna.

The new offer “would return maximum choice and value back to consumers where it belongs,” a DirecTV official told The Desk by e-mail. “[Customers] should be the arbiter of what they want or not, and we want to support that.”

DirecTV characterizes the proposal as a first, but substantial, step toward offering à la carte options for subscribers, rather than forcing them to take bundles of channels they don’t want. Those bundles have typically resulted in higher programming fees for DirecTV and other pay television companies, which are almost always passed on to customers in the form of increased bills.

Less clear is whether TEGNA received DirecTV’s offer prior to the programming blackout on Thursday. Reached by email on Friday, a TEGNA spokesperson declined to say on the record whether DirecTV made such a proposal — but TEGNA is definitely aware of it now, and the broadcaster offered the following updated statement:

“We’re committed to reaching an agreement that continues to ensure all of DirecTV’s subscribers in our communities have access to the local and national news, sports and entertainment our stations offer, while providing our stations with the fair compensation they need to continue their significant investments in the content viewers value. In contrast, DirectTV’s proposal to instead require its customers to pay yet another standalone fee for our local stations – unlike all other broadcast stations – disserves subscribers and is not productive.”

The statement went on to say that TEGNA is focused on “reaching a deal based on the mutually-beneficial, market-based terms we have successfully negotiated with numerous distribution partners of all sizes.”

“We have been working for months to find common ground with DirecTV; 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,” the statement continued. “Still, we remain available and ready to work around the clock to reach a deal when DirecTV is ready to bargain seriously.”

TEGNA and DirecTV are no stranger to programming disputes: Both companies engaged in a weeks-long battle over retransmission fees three years ago, with DirecTV accusing TEGNA of demanding one of the largest rate increases the company had ever seen. (The matter was ultimately settled with no financial terms disclosed publicly.)

Ultimately, TEGNA may have more to lose than gain if it digs in for a prolonged carriage dispute this time around: Programming from its CBS and NBC affiliated stations is widely available on two streaming services — Paramount Plus and Peacock — while prime-time shows from ABC and Fox are available on Hulu. Local news broadcasts from TEGNA’s stations stream for free on a number of platforms, including Fox-owned Tubi. And all of TEGNA’s stations are receivable for free with a conventional TV antenna.

For each day TEGNA’s stations are off DirecTV, the broadcaster loses the ability to reach millions of DirecTV satellite, streaming and U-Verse subscribers across the country. That could deeply impact advertising revenue that TEGNA’s local stations rely upon, at a time when the local outlets are expecting a windfall due to the holiday shopping season, premium sports events and the current 2024 presidential election cycle.

The affected TEGNA-owned stations that were removed from DirecTV on Thursday include:

  • KAGS-LD (Channel 23, NBC) in College Station, Texas
  • KARE (Channel 11, NBC) in Minneapolis
  • KBMT (Channel 12, ABC) in Beaumont, Texas
  • KCEN (Channel 6, NBC) in Waco
  • KCWI (Channel 23, CW Network) in Des Moines
  • KENS (Channel 5, CBS) in San Antonio
  • KFMB (Channel 8, CBS) in San Diego
  • KFSM (Channel 5, CBS) in Fort Smith, Arkansas
  • KGW-TV (Channel 8, NBC) in Portland, Oregon
  • KHOU (Channel 11, CBS) in Houston
  • KIDY (Channel 6, Fox) in San Angelo, Texas
  • KIII (Channel 3, ABC) in Corpus Christi
  • KING (Channel 5, NBC) in Seattle
  • KMPX (Channel 29, Estrella TV) in Dallas
  • KMSB (Channel 11, Fox) in Tucson
  • KNAZ (Channel 2, NBC) in Flagstaff, Arizona
  • KONG (Channel 16) in Seattle
  • KPNX (Channel 12, NBC) in Phoenix
  • KREM (Channel 2, CBS) in Spokane
  • KSDK (Channel 5, NBC) in St. Louis
  • KSKN (Channel 22, CW Network) in Spokane
  • KTBU (Channel 55, Quest) in Houston
  • KTFT-LD (Channel 7.7, NBC) in Twin Falls, Idaho
  • KTHV (Channel 11, CBS) in Little Rock
  • KTTU (Channel 18) in Tucson
  • KTVB (Channel 7, NBC) in Boise
  • KTVD (Channel 20) in Denver
  • KUSA (Channel 9, NBC) in Denver
  • KVUE (Channel 24, ABC) in Austin, Texas
  • KWES (Channel 9, NBC) in Odessa, Texas
  • KXTV (Channel 10, ABC) in Sacramento
  • KXVA (Channel 15, Fox) in Abilene
  • KYTX (Channel 19, CBS) in Nacogdoches
  • WALV-CD (Channel 46) in Indianapolis
  • WATL (Channel 36) in Atlanta
  • WATN (Channel 24, NBC) in Memphis
  • WBIR (Channel 10, NBC) in Knoxville, Tennessee
  • WBNS (Channel 10, CBS) in Columbus, Ohio
  • WCCT (Channel 20, CW Network) in Hartford, Connecticut
  • WCNC (Channel 36, NBC) in Charlotte
  • WCSH (Channel 6, NBC) in Portland, Maine
  • WFAA (Channel 8, ABC) in Dallas
  • WFMY (Channel 2, CBS) in Greensboro, North Carolina
  • WGRZ (Channel 2, NBC) in Buffalo
  • WHAS (Channel 11, ABC) in Louisville
  • WJXX (Channel 25, ABC) in Jacksonville, Florida
  • WKYC (Channel 3, NBC) in Cleveland
  • WLBZ (Channel 2, NBC) in Bangor, Maine
  • WLMT (Channel 30, CW Network) in Memphis
  • WLTX (Channel 19, CBS) in Columbia, South Carolina
  • WMAZ (Channel 13, CBS) in Macon, Georgia
  • WNEP (Channel 16, ABC) in Scranton, Pennsylvania
  • WOI-TV (Channel 5, ABC) in Des Moines
  • WPMT (Channel 43, Fox) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • WQAD (Channel 3, ABC) in Davenport, Iowa
  • WTIC (Channel 61, Fox) in Hartford, Connecticut
  • WTLV (Channel 12, NBC) in Jacksonville, Florida
  • WTOL (Channel 11, CBS) in Toledo
  • WUPL (Channel 54) in New Orleans
  • WUPW (Channel 36, Fox) in Toledo
  • WVEC (Channel 13, ABC) in Virginia Beach
  • WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS) in New Orleans
  • WXIA (Channel 11, NBC) in Atlanta
  • WZDX (Channel 54, Fox) in Huntsville
  • WZZM (Channel 13, ABC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan

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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 11 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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