AT&T and Northwest Broadcasting have announced they’ve ended their nearly eight-month old carriage dispute, which means 20 Northwest-owned local stations can now return to the AT&T-owned DIRECTV, U-verse and AT&T TV Now.
The three TV services lost the Northwest stations on February 22 when AT&T and Northwest could not reach a new programming agreement. (Northwest owns around 20 local channels in 10 markets, including Syracuse, New York, Spokane, Washington, Yuma, Arizona, Yakima, Washington, and Billie’s Greenville, among others.)
The dispute lasted longer than usual and Northwest’s relatively small size was likely a factor. Northwest has far fewer stations than some local channel owners such as Sinclair and Nexstar, and most of them are in relatively small markets. Consequently, it was easier for AT&T to play hardball with Northwest because the impact of the blackout would be smaller on subscribers.
In addition, the media largely ignored the AT&T-Northwest fight, which also made it easier for AT&T to hold out because there was less pressure on it to end the controversy.
The companies were fighting over how much the AT&T services should pay to carry the Northwest stations, according to AT&T.
“We want to get Northwest Broadcasting’s stations back into your local lineups as soon as possible. Northwest charges more than nearly every other station owner to allow anyone to keep its stations,” Directv said in a tweet last March.
However, Northwest says the fight was not over rates, although it hasn’t disclosed any other reason.
“Northwest regrets the inconvenience this has placed on our valued viewers,” Northwest said in a statement released on Thursday.. “Resumption of carriage may vary from market-to-market as it is at the discretion of DIRECTV.”
— Phillip Swann