By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, I cannot believe that DIRECTV has lost our local Fox station. Do you know when this will be over? We love watching sports and other shows on Fox. — Ginni, Denver. 

Ginni, DIRECTV last night lost somewhere between 159 and 200 local stations due to a carriage dispute with their owner, Nexstar Broadcasting. The blackout also affects DIRECTV Stream and U-verse.

The two sides are so far apart that they can’t even decide how many stations are blacked out! Nexstar says ‘only’ 159 stations have been removed from DIRECTV. But the satcaster says it’s around 200 because you have to include stations managed by Nexstar but owned by other broadcasters. (Since October 2022, DIRECTV has been without network affiliates owned by Mission and White Knight, but managed by Nexstar, due to separate fee fights.)

When they leave the negotiating table without even agreeing how many people will be affected, you know you’re in for a long one.

But this shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been following our coverage of the DIRECTV-Nexstar feud over the last several months. DIRECTV in March sued Nexstar, Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting, alleging the three companies have violated anti-trust law in a scheme to pump up carriage fees for local network affiliates.

The satcaster, and its sister services, U-verse and DIRECTV Stream, have been without Mission’s 26 local stations and White Knight’s three stations since October due to separate carriage disputes. However, DIRECTV has maintained that Nexstar, which serves as the operating business for both station groups, has pulled the strings behind the scenes of the negotiations and forced the two companies to seek higher fees.

Nexstar denies the charge although they do manage the stations owned by Mission and White Knight. The broadcaster says DIRECTV is just trying to divert attention from previous carriage disputes over the last year. In addition to the Mission and White Knight fee fights, the satcaster was involved in one with Newsmax which was settled.

“DIRECTV/UVERSE has a history of taking stations off their line-up, holding their customers hostage. In fact, as a result of such actions, DIRECTV/UVERSE has lost an estimated 1.5 million subscribers just last year. Our offer is fair.  And now they hold you the subscriber hostage.  It’s not right,” the broadcaster says on its web site.

Of course, Nexstar has also been involved in channel blackouts over the last year with Verizon, and with Dish over a separate battle with the Mission and White Knight stations.

Both DIRECTV and Nexstar are unafraid of playing hardball in carriage fights. Add that to the fact that the companies clearly have animosity towards each other and it’s hard to envision a scenario where this blackout ends soon. I suspect it will last through the summer with little hope of a settlement before the NFL season begins in September.

And maybe not even then.

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— Phillip Swann