Sinclair’s Direct Threat Ends With AT&T Retrans OK


Two weeks after DirecTV, U-Verse and AT&T TV NOW subscribers were faced with a “blackout” of all Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, any fear of further troubles between the TV station owner and DBS and MVPD service provider have now been squelched.

In a brief one-paragraph statement distributed Thursday, Baltimore-based Sinclair confirmed that it and AT&T have agreed on “a multi-year agreement” across AT&T’s three TV services for continued carriage of Sinclair’s owned local broadcast stations — as well as its cable channels.

This includes broadcast rights for expanded-basic offering The Tennis Channel; the 21 Regional Sports Networks Sinclair recently acquired; the YES Network, in which Sinclair is a joint-venture partner; and for future carriage of Marquee Sports Network, the forthcoming Chicago Cubs regional sports network launching in 2020.

Terms were not disclosed.

Sinclair in late September warned viewers of its TV stations in on-air crawls that a “blackout,” by law, across AT&T-owned MVPDs DirecTV and U-Verse could be seen by September 27. However, extensions kept coming.

An initial press release of September 20 from the Sinclair Broadcast Group was titled “Millions of Viewers Across The United States Could Be Deprived Of Local News, Sports And Entertainment Programming.”

AT&T responded. In comments sent exclusively to RBR+TVBR by AT&T spokesperson Tom Tyrer, Sinclair was assailed for controlling “nearly 200 free over-the-air local broadcast stations in nearly 100 different markets” and for its recent $10.6 billion deal to acquire 23 regional sports networks from FOX.

“Wielding these assets, Sinclair routinely threatens or shuts off access to its combination of local and national network content to accomplish one goal: drive up what it collects for content that is offered free over the air,” AT&T said.

The owner of AT&T TV NOW, DirecTV and U-Verse added that it is “disingenuous” for Sinclair to denounce AT&T’s market power “when Sinclair, like all broadcasters, enjoys an antiquated, statutorily created monopoly for its products.”

AT&T continued, “Not surprisingly given its market power, Sinclair has made egregious demands for broad carriage and payment on one of the most expensive single-team RSNs ever with the Cubs in Chicago; for carriage of multiple cable channels that don’t even exist or that Sinclair hopes to someday acquire; and for RSNs that aren’t even up for renewal – just to name a few.”

Playing the role of good guy, AT&T pledged to continue to negotiate “in good faith” to keep all of Sinclair’s channels in its local lineups across the country.

Now, the gloves are off, and there’s no fear of any subscriber screaming anytime soon.