By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, I remember your article that the last time DIRECTV and Nexstar had a blackout, they settled around now. Isn’t that right? Do you think we will see an end to this in the next few days? — Tom, Indianapolis.
Tom, DIRECTV has now been without the 159 Nexstar-owned local network affiliates for almost two months due to a fee fight. That is a significant amount of time because the two companies engaged in a similar carriage dispute in 2019 which lasted slightly less than two months. The fight in 2019 also ended as the college and pro football seasons were about to begin. If history is a guide, that might suggest the current blackout could end this week, too. Right?
Well, maybe. There is a difference between the two disputes. In 2023, DIRECTV is alleging that Nexstar, which manages roughly 30 stations owned by White Knight and Mission Broadcasting, has conspired with those two station groups to withhold its signals. (The satcaster, and DIRECTV Stream and U-verse, have been without the White Knight and Mission stations since October.) Nexstar is denying that charge and the disagreement over White Knight and Mission could further complicate the negotiations for the 159 Nexstar-owned stations. (The blackout, which also affects U-verse and DIRECTV Stream, includes stations for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW. You can see a station list here.)
But that aside, as in 2019, the prospect of DIRECTV’s subscribers not watching college and pro football on 159 Nexstar stations is a strong incentive for both companies to reach an agreement now. DIRECTV can’t afford to have so many viewers of Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC miss even a single NFL or college game while Nexstar is equally dependent on football broadcasts for ratings and advertising, particularly when there’s a writers/actors’ strike that will keep the networks from debuting new programs this fall. Live sports are more important than ever now to both DIRECTV and Nexstar.
Consequently, I would not be surprised if a deal is reached this week. There is no guarantee, but this carriage impasse has reached a point where it could start having a serious economic impact on both companies.
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— Phillip Swann