By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, is there anything going on with DIRECTV and Nexstar? Do we know if they are close? Are they even negotiating? How can we tell if we are going to get our channel back?! This is very frustrating. — Eileen, Kansas City.

Eileen, DIRECTV and DIRECTV Stream have lost nearly 200 local stations due to a now 16-day carriage dispute with Nexstar. The blackout caused many DIRECTV subscribers to miss last week’s MLB All-Star Game, and they could miss the FIFA Women’s World Cup which starts on Fox on Thursday. (The blackout also affects U-verse and it includes network affiliates for Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC and The CW.)

When you ask if there’s anything going on, the answer is yes. DIRECTV just won a lawsuit against Nexstar over excessive carriage fees paid for a CW station eight years ago. However, there’s no indication that case will affect the current blackout. The satcaster today also filed a new protest with the FCC, calling Nexstar every name in the book. But there’s no indication that will change the current dispute, either.

Eileen, I can see how you could get frustrated if you are sitting at home without your favorite channel, and you read these stories involving DIRECTV and Nexstar. They provide pertinent information about the companies, but they tell the viewers absolutely nothing regarding the status of the negotiations, or even if there are negotiations.

This is the second worst thing about being in a TV blackout. The first obviously is losing the channel itself. But the second is that the TV provider and broadcaster never comment on how the carriage talks are going. They also do not reveal their offers so you can evaluate who’s to blame for the impasse. The viewers are left in the dark up to the moment when a resolution is announced — if a resolution is announced. (There are some fee fights that never resolve. Just ask Dish.)

This is a terrible thing for consumers because they get no guidance on whether the blackout will be short term or lengthy. Consequently, they have to make decisions such as whether to switch TV services based on hunches, or hopefully, an informed analysis by yours truly. That’s not enough.

If federal regulators ever take seriously the issue of reforming what’s known in the industry as retransmission (the requirement that cable and satellite ops must pay for local channels), they should consider how these battles also affect the average person, not just the companies.

Eileen, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann