Q. I come to your site every day to look for updates on DIRECTV and Tegna. I’ve really enjoyed your articles. So is there anything new on whether they will settle? I have been without my channel 9 in the Washington area for weeks now. Is there any hope at all? — Maureen, Bowie, Maryland.
Maureen, let me first thank you for your kind words and support. As you know, DIRECTV lost 60 Tegna-owned local stations on December 1 due to a fight over how much the satcaster should pay to carry their signals. (The blackout also affects the AT&T-owned U-verse, AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now.)
I’ve provided regular reports on viewing alternatives as well as any indicators on when the fee fight will be settled. At this point, there is no sign that an agreement is imminent. And I think I can safely speculate that there won’t be a deal at least until Saturday or Sunday, if then. The next round of NFL games on Sunday could act as a trigger for more fruitful talks. In past disputes between broadcasters and pay TV providers, the Sunday morning before 1 p.m. kickoff has been a popular time to announce a new carriage pact.
That said, there are a few interesting developments that suggest both sides need to treat this dispute with more urgency.
The Buffalo News reported yesterday that there’s evidence that the blackout hurt the local Buffalo ratings for the Bills-Steelers game on last Sunday’s Sunday Night Football game, which aired on NBC. (The Buffalo NBC affiliate, WGRZ-TV, is owned by Tegna and therefore now blacked out on DIRECTV.) Buffalo’s rating for the game was lower than Pittsburgh’s rating, and lower than it has been for previous Bills games this year.
“Because of a retransmission dispute between the owner of Channel 2, Tegna, and DirecTV, the station is off the satellite service. That could potentially reduce the station’s audience and therefore its rating by 15% to 20%. If you add 15% to 20% to Channel 2’s rating, Buffalo would easily defeat Pittsburgh,” the story notes.
If other Tegna stations are seeing similar declines, the broadcaster may need to lessen its demands. The company’s mission to generate more revenue starts to lose steam if you’re losing it another way. (Advertising dollars are based on ratings.)
Update: The Houston Chronicle reports today that the Houston Texans’ games are also showing a ratings dip, possibly due to the Tegna blackout.
Likewise, DIRECTV’s subscribers seem to be getting angrier every day, if social media posts are any indication. Many of them say in their comments that they plan to cancel service if a deal is not signed soon.
It’s easy to say things on social media, but the longer the blackout continues, the more likely some subscribers will act on their threats.
The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this dispute and report back here if and when new developments occur.
Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann