The Nexstar Media Group and DirecTV impasse means black screens for some New Mexico football fans and local news viewers.
Nexstar owns 159 local TV stations across the U.S., runs the CW and owns the cable network NewsNation. Nexstar and satellite television provider DirecTV have not come to a new carriage agreement after their previous agreement expired July 2, so the Nexstar channels have gone black for DirecTV customers locally, and in areas across the country where Nexstar owns local channels.
Chris Lalley has been a DirecTV subscriber in Rio Rancho for three years, and he likes to spend Sundays in front of the TV, watching football games. The NFL preseason began Aug. 3, and the first NFL regular season Sunday is Sept. 10.
“If this continues until then, I won’t even have my TV on because there will be nothing to watch,” Lalley said.
For six weeks, Lalley and other DirecTV customers have been without the local Fox and CBS affiliates, which have been blacked out due to the negotiations. Nexstar owns the local KRQE, KWBQ, and KASY stations.
“DirecTV remains committed to negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement with Nexstar, even as they signal to their shareholders that a deal is on the horizon while dragging their feet on negotiations and further harming the broadcaster, its investors, local stations, and viewers across the country,” a DirecTV spokesperson emailed.
Nexstar, on the other hand, said in a news release it has been “negotiating tirelessly and in good faith in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable multi-year contract with DirecTV since May, offering the same fair market rates it offered to other distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations in the past year.”
DirecTV rejected a Nexstar offer to extend the current distribution agreement until Oct. 31, according to the Nexstar statement.
Channel blackouts on DirecTV because of negotiations are not new, said William Anderson, KRQE Media vice president and general manager. KRQE Media owns KRQE, FOX New Mexico, New Mexico CW and MyNet.
Anderson said the blackouts have not had a significant impact on local viewership, because people find other ways of accessing the local programming, whether that’s online or by setting up an antenna. A DirecTV spokesperson said the company does not provide subscriber counts by state or metro area.
“We are in the free TV business,” Anderson said. “I have a building full of people here, as does KOB and KOAT. We employ these folks here, they pay taxes, they participate in the economy and we create stuff. DirecTV doesn’t create anything. They just take our product, mark it up and sell it, so the whole unfairness argument really breaks down.”
Anderson empathizes with frustrated customers who have called and emailed. But local broadcasters are a dominant part of many people’s viewing diets, he added, and that work should be compensated.
“I have some friends with DirecTV, so they’ve been good enough to let me know how they feel about it,” Anderson said. “It’s just really inconvenient, but these guys don’t have the right to disrespect what a local television station is worth. This is one of the things where KOB and KOAT, all of us are in lockstep on these things. There’s value here in local journalism and local programming, and it’s really right and fair to want to protect that.”
As compensation for the channel blackouts, Lalley has been getting a $20 rebate on his monthly DirecTV bill, something he had to request from DirecTV customer service. But he’d be happy to pay more on his bill if the conflict resolved so he can get back to Sunday football.
“I don’t care who’s at fault. I just want the situation remedied,” Lalley said.