Recently DIRECTV filed a complaint with the FCC saying Nexstar is blocking its ability to offer The CW in markets owned by Sinclair, according to a copy of the letter DIRECTV sent to Cord Cutters News. Now Nexstar has filed a letter to the FCC replying to DIRECTV’s claims.
At issue here are rights to The CW programming that is airing on locals not owned by Sinclair. DIRECTV says Nexstar is fighting to block their access to this content even when it is not on their own networks.
In Nexstar’s letter to the FCC, they say DIRECTV’s comparing to the FCC is part of its “continuing campaign to disparage Nexstar and challenge the Congressionally mandated retransmission consent rights of all broadcasters.” In a rebuttal letter first spotted by Cablefax.
Nexstar went on to say, “DIRECTV mischaracterizes the circumstances around its unlawful carriage of CW programming on its streaming platform. As DIRECTV is well aware, its agreement with The CW authorizing streaming of CW programming on DIRECTV’s vMVPD service expired in November 2022,” Nexstar went on to say. “As a sophisticated industry participant, DIRECTV knew that Sinclair could not authorize it to stream CW programs in the absence of a CW network agreement. Nonetheless, DIRECTV STREAM continued to stream CW programming without the appropriate copyright license for the next eight months, until The CW became aware of the infringement and took steps to cause it to stop, as is its legal right.”
Update: DIRECTV has sent Cord Cutters News the following statement. “As we stated in the letter, Nexstar’s behavior underscores the widely adopted position that the Commission should not extend the retransmission consent regime to online providers. DIRECTV was carrying those CWs through our valid agreement with that station group, an agreement that pre-dated Nexstar’s acquisition of the national CW network.”
Here is part of DIRECTV’s original letter to the FCC:
Last week, it expanded this blackout to include CW network programming on Sinclair owned and managed local stations on DIRECTV’s streaming service. It has, in other words, dragged into its dispute new viewers of a competing broadcaster against their will and regardless of DIRECTV’s agreements to serve these viewers.
This behavior reveals what is truly motivating affiliates’ calls for regulation of online providers. It is not local news; it is their economic position. Broadcast affiliates, including Nexstar, have complained that networks control negotiations with online providers to the detriment of local stations, especially local news. Now that it owns a network, however, Nexstar has done just that—required another broadcaster to black out programming on its local stations notwithstanding agreements that other broadcasters had negotiated. Nexstar’s conduct shows that affiliates’ attempt to regulate online providers has never really been about “preserving local broadcasting” or anything else of the sort. Affiliates simply want the government to give them leverage against the networks.
DIRECTV went on to say:
Now, moreover, Nexstar has found an additional source of leverage: viewers of CW programming on stations not owned or controlled by Nexstar. Nexstar purchased the CW Network last October.
DIRECTV carries 21 CW-affiliated stations owned or managed by Sinclair Broadcast Group pursuant to retransmission consent agreements (in the case of its satellite service) and copyright license agreements (in the case of its streaming service) it has negotiated with Sinclair. On July 11, Sinclair told DIRECTV that these stations are no longer authorized to provide CW network content to DIRECTV’s streaming service because Nexstar had withdrawn Sinclair’s rights to do so.
Sinclair thus required DIRECTV to black out this programming from its streaming service, and DIRECTV complied with this directive beginning on July 12.
This all comes as the two companies are in a heated and very public fight over what DIRECTV must pay for local stations owned and operated by Nexstar. Both sides have been very public in their fight over what is a fair price for local ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC affiliates owned by Nexstar.
For now, though, subscribers are caught in the middle as Nexstar wants more money, and DIRECTV pushes back against their demands.