Dozens of local news stations owned by Tegna went dark on DirecTV Thursday night, the result of an ongoing carriage battle between the two services. The duo failed to negotiate a new agreement by 5 p.m. PT, which immediately left five million subscribers across the United States without service.
In a statement to TheWrap, Tegna explained, “Despite months of effort, DirecTV has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with Tegna. As a result, DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse customers will lose access to NFL and college football conference championship games, as well as some of the most popular national network programming and top-rated local news.”
“We urge DirecTV to continue to negotiate with us until a deal is reached that restores our stations to their customers,” the statement continued.
DirecTV reaches almost 12 million subscribers through a combination of traditional satellite television, the company’s DirecTV stream and its U-Verse cable systems. Roughly 40% of the total customer base has been impacted.
Rob Thun, chief content officer of DirecTV, responded to the blackout and said, “It’s disappointing, but certainly not surprising, that Tegna is just the latest to perpetuate what’s become the status quo for American broadcasters by using its territorial exclusivities and blackouts to extort ever-increasing rates for programming that remains free over-the-air.”
“We just can’t do this anymore — these price increases are unsustainable for the average consumer. It’s a badly broken model that erodes trust, eliminates choice and keeps delving deeper into the wallets of our already overtaxed customers,” he added.
Negotiations between the two companies appear to have been stalled by Tegna’s demand of double-digit annual rate increases that would mean customers would pay a premium for Tegna stations. The agreement would have exceeded hundreds of other such agreements DirecTV has with local stations.
The rates demanded by Tegna are higher than what DirecTV is paying to any other provider. DirecTV suggested that customers could have the opportunity to subscribe to Tegna to help meet the rates requested, which would have resulted in a first-of-its-kind model that would give customers the ability to buy into stations they enjoy.