DirecTV and Tegna announced Friday they have reached a new multi-year distribution agreement, ending a blackout that had left millions of subscribers without access to critical local news and sports coverage for nearly two months.
Background of the Dispute
The previous agreement between DirecTV and Tegna, one of the largest local broadcasting groups in the country with 64 stations in 51 markets, expired on December 31, 2022 without a new contract in place. This resulted in a blackout of Tegna’s stations on DirecTV and AT&T U-verse platforms when the new year began.
At issue in the stalled negotiations were fees Tegna sought for retransmission consent, which allows local stations to charge cable and satellite providers for redistribution of their programming. Tegna was likely seeking higher rates after their last agreement expired, while DirecTV pushed back against those demands. This led to a protracted impasse.
Over the past six weeks without a deal, Tegna stations disappeared for subscribers in markets like Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Washington D.C. The timing worsened the impact, as big sporting events were blacked out, including NFL and college football playoff games.
Pressure Mounted Heading Into NFL Playoffs
As the wild-card weekend approached, pressure mounted on the sides to reach an agreement from politicians, bars and restaurants, and most critically, football fans. Several Ohio lawmakers urged action before the Cleveland Browns home playoff game on Sunday, which would be unavailable on local NBC affiliate WKYC without a deal.
11th Hour Agreement Restores Stations Before Key Games
Finally, with hours left until kickoff, DirecTV and Tegna announced Friday afternoon they had come to terms. This followed reports earlier in the day that progress was being made in long-stalled talks.
The deal came just in time, as Sunday features multiple playoff games only available on local stations, including Browns-Texans on NBC and Chiefs-Jaguars on ABC. These and all other Tegna channels are immediately restored on DirecTV and AT&T platforms.
Relief After a Long Wait
The months-long blackout left many subscribers frustrated and unable to watch critical news events along with regular shows. Restoration of popular networks like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC will come as a relief, especially with the NFL playoffs gearing up.
Bars and restaurants in distribution markets, which faced lost revenue without airing games, are particularly thrilled. And late-night deal-making saved the day so fans won’t miss the opening playoff action this weekend.
What’s Next After the Agreement
While the deal got done in the end, retransmission consent battles have become more commonplace. There is a possibility of continued tensions down the road when this new contract expires. Still, with multi-year agreements now in place between the companies, subscribers are protected for the foreseeable future.
Both sides surely learned lessons about leaving these negotiations to the last minute while fans and communities awaited their vital programming. And in a competitive pay television landscape, neither DirecTV or Tegna could afford an extended blackout.
In the end they found common ground, much to the appreciation of their audience eager for the return of their local stations.
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