Q. I lost my NBC station here in Baltimore on my DIRECTV. What’s the deal with this? Will DIRECTV end this thing with the station owner, which I believe is Hearst. What is your prediction? — Clarise, Baltimore.
UPDATE: AT&T and Hearst announced on Sunday, January 5, that they have reached an agreement. The Hearst stations are back on Directv.
Clarise, you’re right. DIRECTV yesterday lost 33 Hearst-owned local stations — some of which this weekend will air NFL playoff games and the Golden Globes awards — after the two companies could not agree on a new carriage pact. The list of stations includes the ABC affiliate in Boston; the NBC station in New Orleans, and the NBC affiliate in Baltimore, among others.
“DIRECTV and Hearst Television have reached an impasse in negotiating a renewal retransmission consent agreement for the carriage of Hearst Television’s broadcast stations on DIRECTV’s satellite system and its internet-delivered platform AT&T TV Now (formerly known as DIRECTV TV Now). We have made significant investments to deliver top tier programming to our viewers and DIRECTV is seeking the right to carry our stations at below market rates, which is neither fair nor reasonable,” states Hearst.
“We cannot offer (the Hearst stations) without Hearst’s permission. Hearst is known to often withhold its stations to try to increase its fees for free broadcast TV. DISH Network, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications and our own customers have all gone without Hearst stations before,” counters AT&T, the owner of DIRECTV.
So when will this fee fight end, you ask? Well, there are two clues that provide some guidance here.
One, the two companies engaged in a similar dispute three years ago which led to a six-day blackout. That would suggest that the relationship between AT&T and Hearst is relatively strong; some carriage blackouts between providers and local stations go on for weeks, if not months. But AT&T and Hearst settled in less than a week.
Two, Hearst this week gave AT&T two extensions before finally pulling its signals on Friday. That would suggest the companies are close to an agreement, but simply came up short at the end of the week.
For these two reasons, I suspect this battle will also be resolved within a week, and perhaps as early as the next few days.
I’m not guaranteeing this, of course, so don’t throw away your TV antennas quite yet.
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— Phillip Swann