CBS Stations Go Dark on AT&T U-verse and DirecTV, Net Warns Blackout ‘Could Last a Long Time’

Deadline for a new distribution agreement was 2 a.m. ET Saturday

Last Updated: July 20, 2019 @ 9:32 AM

CBS has gone dark on DirecTV, DirecTV Now and AT&T U-verse in many major markets after the two sides could not come to a new distribution agreement. The deadline was Saturday morning at 2 a.m. ET.

Additionally, Smithsonian Channel and CBS Sports Network are currently unavailable on DirecTV nationwide. CBS Sports Network has also been dropped from DirecTV Now nationally.

“After months of negotiations, CBS is simply looking to receive fair value for its popular programming and is proposing economic terms similar to those that AT&T’s competitors have accepted in hundreds of our recent distribution agreements,” CBS said in a statement on Saturday. “The DirecTV deal expiring tonight was signed in 2012 and is nowhere close to today’s fair market terms for CBS content – to which AT&T’s competitors have repeatedly agreed.”

CBS said it offered AT&T a 30-day extension to continue negotiations, but that the DirecTV owner declined.

AT&T denied that part was true: “We were willing to continue to negotiate and also offered to pay CBS an unprecedented rate increase,” the WarnerMedia parent company’s statement read, in part. It also called CBS a “repeat blackout offender,” a common theme in the finger-pointing.

“This is just the latest example in AT&T’s long and clear track record of letting its consumers pay the price for its aggressive tactics to get programmers to accept below market terms,” CBS, which warned the black “could last a long time,” countered. “Over the last few months alone, many of AT&T’s negotiations have resulted in carriage disputes, blackouts and popular channels being removed from their services – including its current dispute with Nexstar involving 120 stations nationwide.”

Here is AT&T’s full statement:

CBS has put our customers into the middle of its negotiations by pulling its local CBS stations in 14 cities. We were willing to continue to negotiate and also offered to pay CBS an unprecedented rate increase. That increase would present CBS the highest fee we currently pay to any major broadcast network group, despite the fact that CBS stations are available free over the air.

We had hoped to avoid any unnecessary interruption to any CBS-owned stations or national channels that some of our customers care about. But CBS refused.

CBS is a repeat blackout offender and has removed these same stations from DISH Network and Charter Spectrum customers in the past and threatened to remove them from others to ensure much higher fees. CBS continues to demand unprecedented increases even as CBS advances content on CBS All Access instead of on its local broadcast stations. CBS has said publicly that it priced All Access much higher to capitalize on customers it can capture from cable, satellite or other means of distribution.

In short, CBS is seeking to convert a free, publicly subsidized broadcast station into a high-cost channel while leaving cable and satellite customers holding the bag.

Make no mistake. We want the CBS owned-and-operated local broadcast stations in our lineup. Yet customers today are demanding more choice and value from their local stations. Instead, it has become clear to us that CBS is intent on blacking out any home that chooses to receive cable or satellite service, antagonizing its most loyal viewers.

CBS and other broadcasters continue to cause blackouts at a record pace with more than 213 so far this year, tying the prior record set in 2017.

The vast majority of our TV homes in thousands of different cities will continue to receive their local CBS station the same as before. For those customers who do not, CBS shows also remain available in many affected cities through the new Locast app on DIRECTV Genie and U-verse internet-connected receivers. We are also able to offer our customers an innovative product called Local Channel Connector that can put local broadcast station signals into the program guides of many DIRECTV customers with Genie receivers. Both of these options could be helpful for football fans if CBS’ removal carries on into the college and pro seasons.

Fans of any of the 14 CBS local stations involved can also watch over the air and typically at the station website, at CBS.com or using the CBS app. CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel stream their shows via their own network websites and mobile apps.

There are ways to try to permanently eliminate these blackouts, including new legislation, and fortunately Congress has taken more interest. But the best option is to create mutually beneficial relationships with broadcasters like CBS through good faith negotiations.

Our goal is simple: to deliver the content our customers want at a value that also makes sense to them. We continue to fight for that here and appreciate our customers’ patience.

And here is CBS’ full statement:

Effective 2:00 AM, ET today, AT&T has dropped CBS-owned television stations from the channel lineups of millions of DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and AT&T U-verse TV customers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore and 117 CBS stations and affiliates on DIRECTV NOW. In addition, CBS Sports Network has been dropped nationally from DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW, and Smithsonian Channel has been similarly removed from DIRECTV.

After months of negotiations, CBS is simply looking to receive fair value for its popular programming and is proposing economic terms similar to those that AT&T’s competitors have accepted in hundreds of our recent distribution agreements. The DIRECTV deal expiring tonight was signed in 2012 and is nowhere close to today’s fair market terms for CBS content – to which AT&T’s competitors have repeatedly agreed.

CBS granted an extension of its current deal with AT&T earlier this month in order to try to reach an agreement without consumers being put in the middle. We also offered a 30-day extension yesterday to work towards a fair deal for all parties – most importantly, our loyal viewers – but AT&T declined that additional extension.

While CBS has made every effort to avoid this blackout, we won’t agree to terms that undervalue our hit programming enjoyed by nearly 240 million viewers across all dayparts last season on “America’s Most-Watched Network.” Those loyal viewers are now bearing the burden for AT&T’s unwillingness to negotiate a deal that reflects the current marketplace.

This is just the latest example in AT&T’s long and clear track record of letting its consumers pay the price for its aggressive tactics to get programmers to accept below market terms. Over the last few months alone, many of AT&T’s negotiations have resulted in carriage disputes, blackouts and popular channels being removed from their services – including its current dispute with Nexstar involving 120 stations nationwide.

While we continue to negotiate in good faith and hope that AT&T agrees to fair terms soon, this loss of CBS programming could last a long time.