There may yet be light at the end of the tunnel for the DIRECTV customers still dealing with the blackout of local ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS stations due to its dispute with Neustar. But there appears to be one outstanding point that the two sides can’t agree on.
“We’ve made significant progress in the negotiations to protect customers from unwarranted rate increases,” said a DIRECTV spokesman. “Unfortunately, one of the largest open issues is that Nexstar wants to force us to pay higher rates for several years for broadcast stations Nexstar does not yet or may never own.”
DIRECTV says it is being asked to commit to paying the same higher rates for stations Nexstar may acquire in the future, which the company believes is a non-starter.
In response, a Nexstar spokesman denied that this was a request made of the company.
“That’s not accurate, but we’ll choose to keep our focus on trying to reach an agreement and hope that DIRECTV will avoid any distracting sideshows and do the same,” he said.
Nexstar is one of the largest owners of local broadcast stations, and the company appears to be in an acquisitive mood. Longtime Nexstar executive Tom Carter, who in August stepped down as president and chief operating officer and is now senior advisor to the CEO, said earlier this week at an investor conference that ABC’s portfolio of stations is modest,” and that the company could make a deal “with relatively little friction.” As such, the company is trying to account for the possible expansion in the talks with DIRECTV.
The hangup is continuing to keep DIRECTV customers from accessing local channels in a blackout that started in July. The loss of these stations is even more significant now for sports fans, with the NFL and college football kicking off, and the NBA and NHL seasons starting next month.
The dispute has only grown more bitter over the last few months, with both sides accusing each other of sabotaging the talks. DIRECTV filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, asking the agency to investigate Nexstar over the blackouts, and sued the company, alleging collusion with two other local broadcasting companies. DIRECTV’s alleged that “Nexstar Media Group continues to violate federal antitrust law by engaging in an illegal conspiracy with Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting to manipulate, raise and fix prices of retransmission consent fees.” The satellite TV provider said Nexstar is sports “hostage.”
Nexstar accused DIRECTV of “manufacturing the blackout,” and misleading subscribers over the nature of the fight.
But in the last few days, there seemed to be hints of a resolution. “We’ve been in constant contact the last several weeks and progress has been made,” Carter said.