Today DIRECTV announced it has sued one of the largest owners of local television stations, Nexstar, along with Mission and White Knight for what it calls illegal collusion. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
At issue here are DIRECTV’s allegations that “America’s largest broadcaster 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”
DIRECTV says Nexstars’ action “threatens local television as we know it today.” At the core of the issue here is an effort to push up the cost of local TV. DIRECTV says that over the last 15 years, the cost of local TV is up 5,000%. Now they are arguing these three companies are working together to drive up the price even higher.
In the lawsuit, DIRECTV accuses Nexstar of suing a “shame sidecar agreements” with Mission and White Knight stations to go around FCC ownership caps.
“Mission and White Knight are now unlawfully coordinating with Nexstar to raise prices and extract supracompetitive retransmission consent fees from DIRECTV in ‘overlap’ DMAs—those markets where both Nexstar and either Mission or White Knight each own a Big-4 station,” DIRECTV states. “To accomplish this unlawful and anticompetitive aim, Mission and White Knight have entered into an agreement in which they have effectively relinquished decision-making authority to Nexstar.”
DIRECTV said in its suit that the trio routinely share confidential rates and other financial information through a single agent who can’t keep the details of one contract straight from another, closely align their respective blackout dates, and duplicate their public responses to the media to manipulate viewers and betray the public trust once they unilaterally pull their station signals.
A Nexstar spokesman sent Cord Cutters News the following statement. “Nexstar’s shared services agreements with White Knight and Mission Broadcasting are in full compliance with FCC rules, and each station group independently negotiates its own retransmission consent agreements with its cable, satellite, and telco partners. This lawsuit is without merit and Nexstar looks forward to prevailing in court.”
This could be a massive landmark case in the world of broadcast TV. If DIRECTV wins, it could dramatically change how rights for local TV are negotiated.
Cord Cutters News has reached out to Nexstar for comment and will update our story as we learn more.