Clock Ticks Down On Nexstar/AT&T Impasse

Hank Price: That crucial point in the long-running retrans standoff will come Sept. 5, the day the regular NFL season kicks off on NBC. If there is one thing that will cause consumers to change providers, it is the loss of NFL football. Should that happen, it will be a boon to the cable light OTT services. And the stakes are just as high for Nexstar since the NFL is a very specific advertising buy.

This week marks two months that Nexstar stations have been off DirecTV, making this not only the largest outage in retransmission history, but one of the longest.  To learn the exact number of hours, minutes and seconds, ask anyone who answers phones for DirecTV or a Nexstar station.

During those two months the battles for consumer and political support has been intense.  DirecTV continues to lose subs, even as Nexstar salespeople mourn the destruction of their overnight ratings. If this is about the political side, surely AT&T has made their point.

In addition to public relations, each side has deployed every internal weapon.  DirecTV benefits from the difficulty in unbundling services, plus consumer understanding that changing providers will not stop blackouts. Rebating a few dollars to the loudest complainers is easily worth the price.

Meanwhile Nexstar is playing an advertising makeup weight game to protect station revenue. Advertising agencies have come to understand blackouts. Most will accept additional commercials to make up for lost viewers. So far, actual advertising losses have probably been painful, but not devastating.

Of much more consequence are the currently suspended retransmission payments. Just a few months ago Nexstar reported higher first quarter revenue from retransmission payments than from advertising. DirecTV was an important part of that revenue. The loss of their payments over the past eight weeks is likely substantial. One wonders how long Nexstar will be willing to sustain such losses.

Up until now, there has been no major tipping point to force a settlement. That  changes Sept. 5, the day the regular NFL season kicks off on NBC.


If there is one thing that will cause consumers to change providers, it is the loss of NFL football. Should that happen, it will be a boon to the cable light OTT services. Once gone, a good portion of those former DirecTV subscribers will not return.

The stakes are just as high for Nexstar. The NFL is a very specific advertising buy.  Ad agencies will be less willing to accept makeup weight in other areas, so real dollars will be lost. Agencies will also assume a willingness to lose the NFL means Nexstar will not be back on DirecTV anytime soon. Rates will be adjusted accordingly.

Fast on the heels of the NFL is another date even more important to Nexstar’s southeastern CBS affiliates:  SEC football on CBS kicks off Sept. 14. In Birmingham, where Alabama Football is a religion second only to Baptist, the scheduled Alabama–South Carolina game would normally do between a 50 and 60 rating on the local Nexstar station, bigger than most Super Bowls. The Alabama games are so valuable that advertisers have to buy a package of commercials, including the station’s local sports programming, to appear in them. As with the NFL, real dollars will be lost.

Both parties have good reason to settle their dispute prior to Sept. 5, but what we don’t know is how the negotiations have progressed thus far. Are the parties close to a deal? Are there red lines neither is willing to cross?

If the Nexstar stations are still off DirecTV at 8:20 p.m. ET on Sept. 5, look next to the CBS and Fox games on Sunday, the 8th. If a deal has not been reached by then, we move into unchartered territory with no end in sight. What will happen? We will know shortly.

This is one in a series of occasional columns from Hank Price, a media consultant, author and speaker. He is the author of Leading Local Television, a handbook for general managers. He spent 30 years managing TV stations for Hearst, CBS and Gannett, including WBBM Chicago and KARE Minneapolis. He also served as senior director of Northwestern University’s Media Management Center and is currently director of leadership development for the School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.

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[email protected] says:

August 27, 2019 at 8:38 pm

This isn’t the longest is are Wood TV & Cablevision that lasted a full year from Jan 97 to Jan 98 wasn’t until 2 days until Super Bowl 32 that agreement was finally reached on Jan 98 & KTTW & Medicom that lasted for more than 2 years from fall of 17 to March of 19. I’m guessing that Mediacom just put another Fox TV station on the systems.

Nexstar doesn’t seem the roll the scroll any more and the number to call AT&T & Direct TV they never on the Wood TV website on top even mentions the dispute with AT&T & Direct TV. And neither company will talk about it in public they have already bashed each other no sense rehashing them with PR leases again.

tvn-member-3847048 says:

August 27, 2019 at 10:28 pm

Duane Lammers and his firm Max Retrans is an excuse for Duane Lammers on funneling siphoning off money from fees from various MVPDs to launched on directly bankrolling capital to help Granite Broadcasting/Silver Point Capital keep WTVH going for Granite along with pursuing KOMU TV if University of Missouri-Columbia decides to sell off KOMU in the future and KQTV if Bob Prather-Heartland Media sale of KQTV to News Press Gazette falls apart if FCC decides not to approve sale of KQTV to News Press Gazette, and for the benefit of Lammers himself for Lammers own personal piggybank for Lammers to use it on going to NASCAR races, Saint Louis Blues hockey games,Saint Louis Cardinals baseball games, University Of Missouri-Columbia sporting and athletic events, support Hostess Brands, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi/Mountain Dew, Frito Lay, Budweiser, Marlboro, sports and regular gambling and betting, help put children in colleges and universities, sex trafficing, buy purchase limousine, yacht, helicopter, airplane jet, beach house, and slush funds payouts on hush money payments to lobby and bribe to the FCC and Congress to claim that the retransmission consent process is working fine and doesn’t need any reform very badly as a way to abolish STELA/STELAR, support Missouri law on anti abortions, support Missouri Governor Michael Parson, support Donald Trump, and others outside and independent of Lammers own regular personal checking and banking account by getting up to $1.00-4.00 average per month as commission for Lammers of the up to $2.00-10.00 average per month of the total cost of the average cost of each TV station from each MVPDs subscriber with various broadcasters/broadcasting groups using Max Retrans as a consultant to assist various broadcasters/broadcasting groups as a precondition allowing MVPDs carriage of various broadcasters/broadcasting groups TV stations.

Possible that KSL-Bonneville, KRGV & WBRZ-Manship, WINK-Fort Meyer, and WXCW-Sun likely been using Lammers firm Max Retrans as reason why DIRECTV and Dish has difficulties in getting retransmission consent deals done with those TV stations why DIRECTV couldn’t carry KSL for nearly 8 months, and took DISH nearly a to year carry Manship operated KRGV & WBRZ ever again, DIRECTV still can’t carry WXCW, and DISH still can’t carry WINK. Duane Lammers and his firm Max Retrans is the reason why Mediacom had not been able to get carriage of KTTW-KTTM with Independent Communications until finally settling the long retransmission consent carriage fee fight feud dispute lasting from October 15, 2016 until March 4, 2019 while DIRECTV already carried KTTW-KTTM once again using Lammers and his firm Max Retrans.

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