From Portland, Ore., and Tampa, Fla., to Buffalo, N.Y. and the Nation’s Capital, viewers of television stations owned by the company formerly known as Gannett are being warned that, if they are DirecTV subscribers, they could lose access to the channels as soon as late Thursday evening.
The direct broadcast satellite company is already speaking out about the potential retransmission consent dispute.
With crawl screen messages seen on stations including WTSP-10 in Tampa-St. Petersburg and WUSA9 in Washington, D.C., on Sunday and a banner appearing on their station websites indicating “a special message” for those who watch via DirecTV, TEGNA is warning of a loss of access to their stations if a deal is not reached by November 30.
The retransmission consent negotiations also involve AT&T U-Verse.
Viewers of the TEGNA stations visiting their websites are routed to “keepmylocaltv.com,” with variants for each station based on their network affiliation. For example, KGW-8 viewers in Portland, Ore., are shown a microsite highlighting how Sunday Night Football, The Voice and Saturday Night Live are at stake. In Sacramento, KXTV “ABC10” began running crawl screen messages warning of the November 30 expiry date of the current retransmission consent agreement on Saturday morning. The timing was designed to reach college football game-day viewers.
In a statement provided Monday afternoon to RBR+TVBR, a TEGNA spokesperson said, “We are working hard to reach a fair, market-based agreement with DirecTV based on the competitive terms we’ve used to reach previous deals with DirecTV and other major providers. Thus far, DirecTV has refused to agree to such terms, which is why we have begun informing DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse customers that they may lose access to their local TEGNA station and our valuable programming. We hope that DirecTV is willing to negotiate a market-based deal before the November 30 deadline and doesn’t take away DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse customers’ local news, weather, sports and network programs.”
What does DirecTV have to say about the potential “blackout,” by law, it must undertake should a fresh retrans deal with TEGNA not be signed by the end of the day Thursday?
As is typical in these negotiations, each side is blaming one another. While TEGNA has signaled that DirecTV is the party responsible for possibly “taking away” their channels from customers, the direct broadcast satellite provider blames the TV station owner for seeking an unfair compensation value for the right of DirecTV to profit from the carriage of the signals owned by broadcast TV companies such as TEGNA.
In a statement provided to RBR+TVBR, a DirecTV spokesperson said, “TEGNA has once again made a private negotiation public in the hopes of creating unnecessary and premature concern among some of our customers to extract higher rates for local broadcast stations. Unfortunately, that’s become the industry norm as the costs for free local stations have soared more than 20% year upon year upon year despite declining popularity and less-compelling content. We will continue to meet our customers’ demands for greater choice and value and do our utmost to shield them from unwarranted price hikes as we work with TEGNA to renew its stations without any interruption.”
TEGNA owns and operates 68 stations, with 21 stations affiliated with NBC and 16 with CBS. Each of the stations, DirecTV points out, stream their local news product while network content can be seen via Peacock or Paramount+.