Updated: DIRECTV Loses ABC’s ‘Distant’ Channel, But Keeps Others


Updated, June 1, 9:30 a.m. ET
DIRECTV can no longer carry ABC’s ‘out-of-market’ channel under a new law, but it has signed last-minute deals with CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW to continue offering its programming to certain rural residents, RV owners and others who can’t get their local network affiliates through the satcaster.

For more than two decades, DIRECTV subscribers have been eligible under the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR) to receive ‘distant’ network affiliate feeds for NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS and the CW if DIRECTV does not provide their local channels. (The ‘distant’ signals have come from network affiliates such as those in Los Angeles and New York.)

See an update on this story.

Normally, pay TV viewers are prohibited from receiving ‘distant network signals (DNS)’ because local broadcasters want them to watch their channels. But the law provided an exception for people in remote areas where satcasters were unable to deliver the local signals. (Dish also used to provide distant locals, but no longer has to because it offers the market’s locals in all areas.)

However, Congress last year did not renew the law, and it expired today. AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, estimates that tens of thousands of the satcaster’s subscribers are affected by the change.

But Jim Greer, an AT&T spokesman, tells the TV Answer Man that his company has now secured new agreements with all the networks except for ABC. Due to the change in the law, the company was forced to negotiate new deals with the networks to continue offering its programming to subscribers who previously received the out-of-market signals.

“We negotiated with the major networks and completed deals with all the networks (Fox, NBC, CBS and CW) except for ABC. We are still in talks with ABC but can’t disclose any specifics. Our goal is to continue providing network content to as many homes as possible,” Greer said in an e-mail.

The agreements apparently were finalized after the new law went into effect. DIRECTV subscribers this morning posted messages on Internet forums such as DBSTalk.com and Twitter that they had lost the distant CBS, NBC and ABC affiliates, but that Fox remained.

“I was watching the LA Protest on NBC LA 393 and at 7:00 pm CDT the channel want off. That is the end (of the) DNS networks. I will miss them,” one DBSTalk.com user wrote last night.

“I live in northeastern PA. My DNS (E/W coasts) ABC, CBS, NBC were turned off. I still get FOX E/W (East/West),” added ‘FussyBob at DBSTalk.com.

Final note: AT&T wouldn’t elaborate on whether all subscribers who have been receiving distant signals will continue to get Fox, NBC, CBS and the CW. But residential customers who had been getting out-of-market signals for Fox and NBC report that they were still getting them early this morning after the law changed.

Need to buy something today? Please buy it using one of the Amazon links here. This site receives a small portion of each purchase, which helps us continue to provide these articles.

Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at swann@tvpredictions.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann

32 comments on “Updated: DIRECTV Loses ABC’s ‘Distant’ Channel, But Keeps Others”

    1. I am so disappointed with DirecTV because I can’t get a local channel which is WSFA TV. The little town I live in has 4 tv stations most of the time 2 of the stations have the same news at the same time. And I can’t get the news 80 miles from where I live.

    1. called and was told i wouldn’t lose “local” channels… i asked them what about this article from you? I said i see I still have Fox east/west but not others… the gentleman said he didn’t know anything about your website and has never heard of you… So, they are not trained at all ….

  1. Mr. Swan,

    Thank you for keeping us updated and for speaking with the higher ups at Directv, if you get the time, can you do us a favor? I have friends and relatives who are in limbo right now, some lost all of the DNS, some only kept NBC or FOX, some only kept both NBC and FOX.

    I have a feeling that in the situation in which people kept NBC and FOX but lost CBS, the new CBS side deal might permit them to turn it back on, but because nobody knows what these side deals state, they are unsure and not certain if they should call Directv, in fact multiple people are reporting that 391, CBS West went from viewable and white on the guide to unviewable and grey, now it is back to white but still unviewable with a code 721, should these people call in and have Directv reinstate the CBS on their accounts?

    I realize Directv might not be able to give the exact language of their side deals but can they be more forthcoming about some of the rules of who are keeping these and why and if some of the people are now eligible to get their feeds turned back on.

    Thank you and stay safe.

      1. Thanks, if you get the chance, can you ask them which number and department we should call to get the correct information, in the past, regular customer service reps have offered wrong information, thank you.

  2. When I got with Direct TV I was told I would have my local channels and not loose them. I’m very disappointed if I loose my local channels I will drop Direct TV really fast. Sorry but I need my local channels.

  3. I live in northwest Pa. and have had the distant channels for 20 years. I lost them all and have not gotten any of them back as of yet. Am I not grandfathered in to get then back with everyone else after all this time?

  4. I have been paying for and getting the New York/LA channels since I first purchased the small satellite dish ($800) in 1995. This is before DirecTV was an entity. The content providers were two companies whose names I don’t remember. I live in rural northern California. I do also get the nearest local city channels from San Francisco. I watch a lot of local channels and the distant channels. It is crazy to limit what we can see if we are able to pay for it. Please AT&T and DirecTV keep these distant channels available.

    1. It was originally 2 companies United States Satellite Broadcasting USSB & DirecTV, they then merged in, I believe 1998 or ‘99. We have been customers since 1995. It’s been a hassle since AT&T destroyed it, we originally bought all of our equipment as well. We have followed the rules, never altering our package, where we legally were entitled to keep when the distant broadcasting channels under the “grandfathered clause”, yet AT&T has increased rates, charges a “Sports package fee”, even though we do not watch sports + all kinds of other increases.

  5. I live in a rural area and signed up with direct tv at least 25 years ago.When I did I couldn’t even get tv with an antenna,So they signed me
    up with out of market networks. I watch those channels mostly and I am lost with out them the last two days.Went to a sight to see if I could get local channels
    now but it wouldn’t even give me a signal!They told me I was grandfathered in when I had to change a receiver.So will I be one of the lucky ones?

    1. I’d love to know why Directv arbitrarily shutdown CBS for nearly all on here but left NBC and Fox on for most.
      This has been a giant mess and Directv needs to clean up their mess.
      I called Directv and of course they have zero idea what is happening but are using the excuse of “you receive your local channels”. That has zero to do w/this. I’ve been a Directv sub since 1994 and entitled to receive dns. I was told that they would call me back after they found out. That will never happen.
      It makes no sense that we still receive nbc/Fox but yet cbs is gone.

  6. I’ve had all these stations for over 20 years now they are gone except fox W/E…ATT has really taken down DirectTV since they acquired it.

    1. No. Don’t waste your time as know one will help. they just took off all w/e network channels except fox e/w channels without authorization.

  7. I have been a DirecTV customer since 1997, so I had the East Coast channels grandfathered in.

    If DirecTV loses this feature, I am out.

    The only reason I have paid $175 per month is for NFL and East Coast channels.
    I spoke with DirecTV for an hour and 20 minutes last night.
    Since the switch to AT&T, the customer service has gone right down the toilet.

    1. I agree with J Nordstrom and Mike, I’ve talked to numerous people who have lost CBS E/W feeds but have retained FOX/NBC E/W feeds, can Directv give us at least one metric of what this is based on, is it distance to the tower, is it possible that CBS was turned off before the new deal was cut, can invididuals get CBS back, have your employees at Directv been fully briefed, clearly based on my phone call and others they have not, they don’t have the details of the new agreements, can a memo be issued to the customer service reports.

      Can we get some guidance here through Mr. Swann or on Twitter @Directv, if you are on Twitter, send some tweets to @Directv, keep the pressure on, maybe we will get some actual useful information.

      Good luck to all and stay safe.

  8. Mr. Swann,

    Just in case you did not see my other response in the other article, I did not want my comment misconstrued, I know you are telling us everything, just if that you get a chance to talk with them again, also in case Directv was reading this, I was trying to send them a message, even if they reached out to you, that would be great, thanks.

  9. We only get NBC East\west. I manage the DIRECTV for my elderly parents, but I am out of state when I called Direct Tv, They said we are eligible for Fox and CBS and they can troubleshoot it for me if I was at the box, but I can’t be there until July. Does this make sense?

    It sounds like it’s hit and miss on these channels I will go and re-read all the comments.

    Thx in advance

    1. Directv tweeted me this.

      We know this can be frustrating. We objected to this, but a change in law prohibits us from legally providing out-of-market broadcast network stations. We are in discussions with the other major broadcast networks to minimize disruptions. Learn more here: http://sm.att.com/1fb2fc02

      I believe no matter what ZIP Code you enter you get the same response…

  10. I lost t hug e Fox channe here in Fairfield, Illinois. When will it be available again? Last week it was ABC, when will we have our channels back. I dirty t hff at where I live they only have Direct TV it is the pits!

  11. Mr. Swann,

    One more request, if you do get a chance to speak with Directv/AT&T, if they can’t reveal any of the details on the new agreements with CBS/NBC/FOX, can they at least give us guidance as to what we can tell a Directv customer service rep, is there something the rep can input into the computer system to see if one or all of the DNS channels can be reinstated.

    Let’s take one example, perhaps Directv shut off CBS before the new agreement was put in place, that subscriber still was able to keep FOX/NBC East/West feeds, is there a code or something the Directv rep can input into the computer to see if CBS can be reinstated for that particular subscriber?

    That information would maintain Directv’s agreement privacy with the networks but allow the subscribers to feel confident that if indeed the new rules allowed them to keep watching, they know one way or the other without the worry that the Directv rep simply does not have the proper information.


    Also can you ask them if we see CBS West as white in the guide but we still get the EXT. 721, does the white indicate we are eligible to have it reinstated? Normally if the guide indicates white it means the channel should be viewable, a greyed out channel on the guide indicates it is not viewable.

  12. Changed my service address to a New York address. I’m getting the major networks except ABC. Better than nothing I guess for now until they work something out with ABC.

  13. We have had CBS, NBC, ABC both east and west coast for 25 years. The only reason we have staid with Direct TV was because we didn’t want to lose these stations. Who do you suggest we choose in order to receive the NY feed as we live on the West Coast?

  14. So Can I also change my address to NYC Then would I get the eastern feeds Everything is done by credit card anyway??

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.