Customers across much of the U.S. have lost TV stations thank to a dispute between AT&T and broadcaster Tegna.
The communications company and the broadcaster failed to reach a new agreement Tuesday, resulting in more than 60 stations lost on DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and the AT&T TV streaming service.
AT&T places the blame on Tegna, which has more than 60 TV stations in 51 markets and reaches 39% of all U.S. TV households.
Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.
“In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, TEGNA is demanding the largest rate increase we have ever seen, and intentionally blacking out its most loyal viewers,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY. “We challenge TEGNA to return its local stations immediately while we finalize a new agreement and pledge to pay TEGNA retroactively whatever higher rates to which we eventually agree. We share our customers’ frustration, appreciate their patience and intend to do all we can to resolve this matter soon.”
Spotify 2020 Wrapped: How to find what music, podcasts and playlists you listened to this year
Consumer Guide: What you need to know before buying that cheap smart TV
AT&T says it is working with Tegna to get its stations back on its satellite, fiber and broadband-delivered pay-TV services. But the broadcaster “has exclusive control over which homes are allowed to receive either ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX or CW in certain cities, regardless of what provider they choose,” AT&T says on its website.
The Tysons, Virginia-headquartered Tegna countered that its proposal to AT&T is “in-line with the market,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY.
“The differentiated, non-substitutable programming we provide including live local news, live local and national sports and first run, highly popular network content is a vital reason why consumers continue to subscribe to (pay-TV) bundles,” the statement said. “That value is reflected in the hundreds of agreements we have negotiated over the past years with cable, satellite, telco and (streaming) providers nationwide.”
As is common in carriage disputes such as these, neither side is releasing the specific points of contention.
“The companies have not specified why the two sides are quarreling, but money is the usual reason behind a channel blackout,” says Phil Swann, a journalist who operates The TV Answer Man website. “Tegna station subscribers are already voicing their anger on social media sites.”
Among the potential programming losses for viewers is the postponed NFL game between the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, to be broadcast Wednesday at 3:40 p.m. ET on NBC.
Also potentially lost to viewers: this weekend’s NFL games as well as other programming. The Tegna CBS channel in Houston, KHOU channel 11 has this message on its website: “DIRECTV and AT&T U-Verse are taking away your access to your favorite CBS programming, including NFL football, SEC college football, The Amazing Race, NCIS, Seal Team and Young Sheldon as well as your local news, weather and sports. Consider switching to a new video provider or tell DIRECTV and AT&T U-Verse to bring back KHOU by calling 1-800-531-5000 (DIRECTV) or 1-800-288-2020 (AT&T U-Verse).”
This isn’t the only TV dispute facing pay-TV subscribers. Dish Network and Nexstar Media Group also are in the midst of a standoff that could lead to a blackout at the end Wednesday. Nexstar has nearly 200 stations – including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC network affiliates – in 115 markets, covering about 63% of TV homes. Dish has said the potential standoff could lead to the “largest local station blackout in TV history.”
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: TV tussle: DirecTV, Tegna dispute turns TV channels dark in 51 markets including Houston, Seattle