Two Utah TV stations have been removed from DirecTV’s lineup, part of what the satellite television provider is calling “the largest local TV outage in U.S. history.”
DirecTV subscribers hoping to tune in to ABC affiliate KTVX-Channel 4 or CW affiliate KUCW-Channel 30 will have to haul out antennas or find another way to watch the two Nexstar-owned stations.
It all comes down to money. And both DirecTV and Nexstar are blaming the other for the impasse.
According to a DirecTV spokesperson, Nexstar is demanding “more than double the previous amount for the same content,” and that would “pass on additional costs to viewers.” And, because the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement, DirecTV “is prohibited from providing Nexstar stations” to its customers.
In a statement, Nexstar said it has offered “the same fair market rates it offered to other distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations in the past year” for its “highly-rated programming.”
DirecTV, however, argued that Nexstar’s stations have become “less valuable” because combined network ratings are down 46% in total viewers since 2010, and the major networks have moved “live sports and other popular programs online.”
In addition to the two local stations, local subscribers to DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and U-verse also lost access to Nexstar-owned cable news channel NewsNation.
Both sides vowed to continue negotiations. The DirecTV-Nexstar negotiations are happening at the corporate level, so the management of KTVX and KUCW can only wait to hear when the dispute is settled.
This is not just a Utah issue. All 159 Nexstar stations in about 100 TV markets across the country are off DirecTV — dozens of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW affiliates. About 10 million viewers are affected.
How long this impasse will last is anybody’s guess. Exactly four years ago — July 3, 2019 — Nexstar stations, including KTVX and KUCW, were removed from DirecTV when the two sides were unable to come to an agreement. That dispute lasted eight weeks; the two sides reached an agreement shortly before the college football and NFL seasons began.
In April 2019, KSL-Channel 5 was finally able to broker a deal that returned that station to DirecTV’s lineup after a dispute that lasted almost eight months.
The trouble between the satellite TV provider and the nation’s biggest local station owner goes deeper than just this dispute. DirecTV has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Nexstar and has accused the company of violating Federal Communications Commission regulations with “shame sidecars” — 27 stations Nexstar does not own but controls through agreements under which it operates them, thus skirting ownership caps. According to the complaint, Nexstar is “conspiring to manipulate the cost of retransmission consent to American consumers.”
Since legislation that went into effect in 1992, cable and satellite providers have been required to obtain the permission — retransmission consent — of broadcast stations to carry their signals. That permission generally comes after the satellite/cable company agrees to pay for it.