Q. I have been without my CBS station here in Fresno for more than a month. I have DIRECTV. Is there any chance these two fools will make a deal soon. I miss my favorite newscasters on the local news. — Trudy, Fresno.
Trudy, as you note, on July 3, DIRECTV lost 120 Nexstar-owned local stations due to a carriage dispute between its owner, AT&T, and the broadcaster. The stations include network affiliates for CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC and the CW. (The blackout also affects the AT&T-owned DIRECTV Now and U-verse.)
DIRECTV is entangled in a similar carriage dispute with CBS-owned local stations in 16 markets, and yesterday, I published an article predicting that the blackout will likely not end until the start of the 2019 NFL regular season in September.
The reason, in part, is that August is a slow month for television viewing so there’s less pressure now on both sides to reach a deal. However, when football starts next month, and the networks begin premiering new shows for the 2019-2020 season, that dynamic will change quickly.
The same logic applies for the DIRECTV-Nexstar fee fight. I do not foresee the two companies reaching a deal in August.
But I’m also not confident that they will reach a deal in early September, either.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said last week that the gap between what Nexstar wants and what AT&T will pay is significant. But Stephenson said his company is close to reaching an agreement with the CBS-owned stations, and he’s hopeful it will come sooner than later.
Why does Stephenson sound more optimistic about the CBS-owned stations?
There’s arguably more pressure on AT&T to reach a deal with the CBS-owned affiliates because most of them are in large population centers, and they include two important media and financial markets, New York and Los Angeles.
Update: AT&T settled with the CBS-owned stations on August 8.
But Nexstar’s stations are largely in small-to-mid-sized markets which are often ignored by the media and financial analysts.
That may seem unfair, but it’s how corporations often think. They are acutely aware of how their actions will be portrayed in the media and Wall Street analysts. If AT&T doesn’t make a deal with Nexstar, it’s less likely to be noticed by the media, and therefore, less likely to be an issue with shareholders.
Consequently, I’m afraid the Nexstar-DIRECTV blackout could extend until late September, or even beyond that.
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— Phillip Swann