DirecTV is looking to establish a new regime for the distribution of TV stations, one it says would arrest the tide of TV station-caused price hikes and consumer anger over blackouts before the big game. The satellite TV provider with 11.8 million subscribers nationally is proposing a new a la carte model for the industry. The company wants to jettison the “retransmission consent” requirement in current law that says DirecTV must negotiate carriage with TV stations, even if it means losing stations in the absence of a mutual deal.
For starters, Tegna and DirecTV had a carriage dispute in 2020that led to a 19-day channel blackout before the two sides finally reached a new deal. The disagreement was over how much the satellite service should pay to carry Tegna’s signals, just as it is now. But Tegna has been involved in several other fee fights over the last few years. The company clearly has no compunction allowing its channels to go dark if it helps get the best deal possible. Likewise, DirecTV this year had a 10-week blackout battle with Nexstar, a two-month dispute with Newsmax, and still has ongoing fights with Mission Broadcasting and White Knight.
Tegna is back on the rocks with DirecTV, signaling to viewers Saturday that its stations could soon be pulled off the programming grids of the pay TV operator’s platforms amid failing broadcast retransmission licensing negotiations. The broadcaster, which owns 64 network affiliates in 14 markets, told viewers with DirecTV satellite, DirecTV Stream and U-verse subscriptions that they could “lose” Tegna stations starting Nov. 30 without DirecTV agreeing to “fair, market-based” terms on broadcast retransmission licensing.
Big TV station groups continue to see the greatest downside with affiliate revenue as a result of more pay TV cord-cutting, a Wells Fargo report says. According to the report, fewer pay TV subscribers — including in the most recent quarterly period — will eventually mean less affiliate revenue, especially for big, independently owned TV station companies. “We think the third quarter reiterates the weakness in some of our companies due to their high exposure to pay TV decline,” writes Steven Cahall, Wells Fargomedia analyst.
The contract covers Nexstar’s television stations, NewsNation cable network and diginets Antenna TV and Rewind TV.
Comcast and Imagicomm reached a retransmission consent agreement Tuesday, ending a month-long blackout. The deal restores WHBQ Memphis and KAYU Spokane to Xfinity cable subscribers.
Local stations need to question their assumptions about traditional revenue sources and set aside ample time for short- and long-range planning and developing multiple budget scenarios.
Maybe the sky isn’t falling on broadcast. Gray Television on Tuesday became the latest large station owner to stand up and tell Wall Street that business is good because the outlook for distribution revenues — including retransmission-consent fees — are expected to grow at a healthy rate. Nexstar Media Group made a similar presentation last week and a few days later E.W. Scripps said it expects 15% growth in distribution revenue and a 40% jump in net distribution dollars.
Bryce Harlow, a lobbyist and spokesperson for the brand-new Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition, explains why the broadcast networks and vMVPDs he’s representing want to leave retransmission negotiation rules just as they are. A full transcript of the conversation is included.
Tanya Vea, president-COO of Bonneville International and a spokesperson for the new Coalition for Local News, explains why the group is drawing a direct line between the need for new FCC rules on dealing with vMVPDs and maintaining healthy local TV newsrooms. A full transcript of the conversation is included.
Several of the country’s biggest entertainment and streaming companies are teaming up to fight hundreds of local broadcasters over a years-old provision that would determine whether they are forced to negotiate directly with those local stations for distribution deals. The Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition, which launched Wednesday, is made up of major entertainment companies and their broadcast networks, including Disney/ABC, Paramount/CBS, Fox Corp./Fox, NBCUniversal/NBC/Telemundo, Warner Bros. Discovery, Univision and Roku.
The multi-year distribution agreement covers Nexstar’s KHON and KHII Honolulu, NewsNation and digital subchannel Rewind TV
The pay TV company said Nexstar, which owns CW, had content from the network removed from Sinclair-owned affiliate streaming feeds in 21 DMAs.
Cable operator Hawaiian Telcom has lobbed fresh accusations against broadcaster Nexstar Media Group over its ongoing carriage dispute involving several TV channels. On Monday, attorneys representing Hawaiian Telcom said it had reached an “agreement in principle” with Nexstar to return KHON (Fox and CW), KHII (MNT) and NewsNation to its cable TV platform, but the deal ultimately fell apart after Nexstar sprang a number of demands on the telecom at the last minute.
Tell you one thing — DirecTV and Nexstar have beef. And plenty of it. But some of that discord got closer to resolution over the weekend, when the New York Supreme Court issued a summary judgment in favor of DirecTV, ruling that Nexstar Media Group breached a 2015 broadcast retransmission contract by not telling the satellite pay TV company that its Washington, D.C. station, then known as WHAG, was about to lose its NBC affiliation and become The CW station WDVM. The court ruled that Nexstar lured DirecTV into the 2015 deal “based on a misleading or materially incomplete representation that WHAG would continue its affiliation.”
Nexstar has spent the past two years building its national media business with The CW as a central part of that strategy. The CW will soon be put to the test as its third iteration hits viewers.
Despite cord-cutting eroding the number of pay TV subscribers, station revenue from retransmission and carriage fees from distributors rose 3% to $14.46 billion in 2022, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. S&P sees rate hikes in deals renewed in 2023 slightly outpacing the cord-cutting trend, resulting in a 3% gain in gross retransmission and subscriber fee revenues to $14.83 billion.
A federal judge denied Dish Network’s motion seeking to have 17 words describing how much Dish was willing to pay Circle City to carry its Indianapolis television stations deleted from the court’s decision dismissing Circle City’s discrimination suit against Dish. Circle City claimed that after it acquired WISH and WNDY from Nexstar Media Group, Dish wanted to cut how much it paid for the stations retransmission rights because Circle City was a Black-owned media company, leading to a blackout of the stations.
Frontier Communications has become the latest pay TV operator to drop/lose carriage of far right channel Newsmax. “Our contract with Newsmax TV expired and we made the business decision not to renew our agreement,” Frontier said in a statement on its website. The telecom, which reported 306,000 remaining TV/video customers at the end of 2022, also said that it has stopped carrying Fuse Media channels Fuse and FM.
CBS local affiliates have rejoined Fubo’s virtual MVPD TV lineup after being pulled from the live streaming TV service earlier this year amid a renewal spat with Paramount Global. On Friday a Fubo spokesperson said: “Virtually all CBS local affiliates have returned to Fubo and are now live.” It marks the latest resolution in a somewhat messy carriage dispute that pitted the CBS affiliate board and its represented local station owners against Paramount Global.
A U.S. District Court Judge on Friday dismissed lawsuits brought by Circle City Broadcasting charging that DirecTV and Dish discriminated against Circle City because it was a Black-owned business. Circle City owner Dujuan McCoy said he planned to appeal the decision. He also said he would work to prevent DirecTV and Dish from merging.
Mission and White Knight stations, which are largely managed by Nexstar, have been blacked out on DirecTV platforms since October.
The CBS affiliate board has endorsed a new carriage proposal from Paramount Global that will keep affiliated stations’ feeds on Paramount Plus, Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV and return them to FuboTV. Affiliates were informed of the new agreement in principle Friday morning, according to a station executive. The proposed deal could head off a period in which relations between networks and affiliates could have turned stormy.
Sinclair Broadcast Group’s ABC affiliates have been dropped from the Hulu Plus Live TV lineup in a dispute between the station owner and The Walt Disney Co., which controls Hulu and owns ABC. Virtual multichannel video programming distributors like Hulu Plus Live, YouTube TV and FuboTV don’t negotiate directly with stations for their retransmission rights. Instead, vMVPD deals are negotiated by the networks, which negotiate terms for their affiliates.
Despite an impasse between Paramount Global and FuboTV, which has kept Nexstar stations off the air for weeks, Nexstar President and COO Tom Carter has a relatively upbeat outlook on pay-TV’s future. “We are projecting subscriber attrition,” he said, with recent gains on internet-delivered bundles like Fubo, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and others failing to offset deeper declines in traditional cable and satellite. “But make no mistake about it — we do not see a cliff. We’re not at a precipice here, or at a point in time where we’re at an inflection point.”
Paramount Global is using its latest Fubo TV negotiation to offer an untenable deal to affiliates and reset the entire retransmission consent landscape. The FCC’s response should be obvious: Make everyone play by the same rules.
Looking at the trouble regional sports networks are having getting distributors to pay for local sports and at CBS affiliates pulling their local feeds from vMVPD FuboTV, Lightshed partners analyst Rich Greenfield is questioning whether the retransmission gravy train for TV broadcasters has left the station.
“No other company has a right to negotiate on behalf of my company without our consent,” said Gray Chairman-CEO Hilton Howell. “I have no intention of negotiating in public, or criticizing anyone anywhere.”
“The next step for retrans is down, not up,” the Dish chairman says while drawing his typically hard line amid a protracted impasse with Cox Media Group.
hree weeks into its carriage dispute with Newsmax, DirecTV has called out the ultra-conservative media company for using its “news/editorial platform” to wage what it views as simply a business negotiation. “It’s troubling that Newsmax is using its news/editorial platform to publish inaccurate and misleading information regarding our contract dispute,” wrote Michael Hartman, DirecTV general counsel and chief external affairs officer.
The FCC’s Diversity Symposium on Feb. 7 turned into a retransmission consent showdown for a little while. Perhaps that is to be expected given that the first panel featured the chair of ACA Connects as well as the CEO of Circle City Broadcasting, which is suing DirecTV and Dish Network over retrans.
Under siege from Republicans and conservatives, DirecTV on Sunday said it was still interested in bringing back right-wing news channel Newsmax. DirecTV dropped Newsmax prompting concerns among some lawmakers about censorship and conservative views being stifled. The satellite company seemed to be extending an olive branch on its website, where it made a statement concerning Newsmax. DirecTV remained adamant that it will not pay the license fee that Newsmax is demanding.
The blackout of CBS affiliates on FuboTV reflects the increasing tension between broadcast networks and their affiliates as TV pivots to streaming. “Having worked around public and private TV broadcasters these last few years, we think dynamics between national networks and station operators are increasingly strained,” Wells Fargo media analyst Steven Cahall said.
Paramount Global will provide FuboTV with a CBS network feed — stripped of local programming — to stream in markets where CBS affiliates turned down a distribution fee deal negotiated by the network. According to a confidential memo sent to affiliates by the CBS affiliate board, CBS set a 5 p.m. Friday (Jan. 27) deadline for stations to opt in or out of the deal. In markets where stations opt out, their programming will be replaced with the network feed on Fubo effective today at 5 p.m. The national feed, including sports and primetime shows, with use content from the CBS News Streaming Network to replace a station’s local programming including local newscasts, CBS said. The new deal would run until after CBS airs the Super Bowl in 2024.
Paramount told CBS affiliates that they had until 5 p.m. today to agree to a retransmission consent deal that it had struck with Fubo or they would replace them on the vMVPD with a CBS “network feed” without the affiliates’ local programming, according to a CBS affiliate board email sent Friday afternoon to its members.
DirecTV stopped carrying Newsmax when an extension of their carriage agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Tuesday in a move that could have repercussions in Washington. DirecTV, one of the first distributors to carry Newsmax, said it ceased carrying Newsmax because the conservative news network was seeking a carriage fee after being available free previously.
The deal ensures CMG’s stations remain in Spectrum’s lineup with local news, entertainment and sports.