By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, we have been without our Fox channel for months and months. Is there anything going on behind the scenes that might break this blackout once and for all? Can you shed some light on this situation for us? — Phyllis, Amarillo, Texas.
Phyllis, DIRECTV last October lost 26 local TV stations due to a carriage dispute with their owner, Mission Broadcasting. The blackout also affects DIRECTV Stream and U-verse. The stations, which are managed by Nexstar, are in 26 markets including New York. Providence, Rhode Island, Little Rock, Albuquerque, Abilene, Texas, Albany, New York and Erie, Pennsylvania, among others. You can see a complete list here.
The phrase, ‘managed by Nexstar,’ is the problem here. DIRECTV has sued Nexstar, charging that the broadcaster is orchestrating the Mission blackout although they do not own the stations. Even though DIRECTV last month settled a separate carriage dispute with Nexstar for 176 local stations actually owned by Nexstar, it has not stopped the Mission-related lawsuit or triggered a settlement for the Mission stations. In fact, The Desk reports that a DIRECTV spokesman says the Nexstar lawsuit is continuing despite the carriage agreement between the companies. (DIRECTV also charges in the lawsuit that Nexstar is behind a DIRECTV blackout of two White Knight stations. Nexstar manages those stations as well.)
DIRECTV believes that Nexstar has violated anti-trust law by allegedly forcing stations it doesn’t own to engage in these carriage disputes and it’s anxious to prove that in court to block similar efforts in the future. (Nexstar, of course, denies that it’s behind the Mission/White Knight blackouts, saying they are not the owner, just the manager of the stations’ daily operations.) Consequently, it would appear unlikely that DIRECTV will reach a settlement for the Mission and White Knight stations without a resolution of the lawsuit. And it’s unclear when that will occur.
“We will continue to seek a separate multi-year agreement to return your (Mission station), which is controlled by Nexstar but licensed to Mission Broadcasting, that by law must oversee any renewal. We want to bring that station back to you as soon as possible and have filed a federal lawsuit and complaints with the Federal Communications Commission to help break this impasse,” DIRECTV says on its TV Promise page.
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— Phillip Swann