Nexstar Blackout Enters Second Weekend

Millions of DIRECTV, U-Verse, and DIRECTV Now Customers in 100 Cities Continue to be Denied Access to More than 125 Local Stations

Washington, D.C. –Nexstar Media Group’s intentional blackout of millions of DIRECTV, U-Verse, and DIRECTV Now customers is now entering its second weekend after Nexstar pulled the plug in approximately 100 television markets to begin the Fourth of July holiday. This major blackout brings this year’s surging total to 201 overall – a 22 percent leap  over the entire 2018 count – and there’s still more than five months and the typical New Year’s Eve salvo still to go.  Broadcasters collected $10.1 billion in retrans fees in 2018, up from $9.3 billion in 2017.  This ongoing blackout in its first week denied the homes involved the FIFA Women’s World Cup victory over the Netherlands and Major League Baseball’s annual midsummer All-Star Game on FOX on July 9.

In addition to Nexstar’s egregious blackout of millions of TV viewers, the broadcaster is using its own local television stations to mislead the public.  According to recent media reporters, Nexstar owned WIVB in Buffalo, NY misled viewers about the details of a letter circulated by Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY), falsely claiming the Congressman asked AT&T to unilaterally end the blackout.  In reality, the Congressman called on both parties to reach an agreement. View the full report here.

Nexstar is responsible for 161 blackouts since 2013.  Nexstar has threatened or blacked out subscribers to DISH Network, Charter Spectrum, Antietam Cable, TDS and now U-verse, DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently reviewing Nexstar’s proposal to merge with Tribune Media. Combined, the two broadcasters are responsible for 254 blackouts since 2012.

“It’s time to declare our independence from greedy broadcasters and a massive TV tax on hardworking Americans,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Nexstar’s behavior is unacceptable and unfortunately there’s nothing to stop it until Congress fixes this broken system.”   

Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) recently reached an agreement on a legislative framework to end television blackouts.  Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR).  As many as 870,000 satellite subscribers, many in the most rural areas of the country, will lose access to broadcast channels if Congress fails to reauthorize STELAR.  Allowing STELAR to expire will also end the FCC’s authority to enforce its “good faith” rules in regard to retransmission consent.

“Congress should not only re-authorize STELAR to maintain the FCC’s authority to enforce “good faith” rules, but also modernize the retransmission consent rules, which currently favor broadcasters at the expense of consumers and competition,” added Duffy.

The 1992 Cable Act established the doctrines of government mandated broadcast carriage or must carry, and forced negotiations known as retransmission consent.  Retransmission consent fees are the payments that TV distributors (cable, satellite, and other TV providers) are required to pay in order to carry broadcast TV channels.  If demands for higher fees are not met, broadcasters pull their signals.   A cable or satellite operator is not allowed to provide subscribers a broadcaster’s signal without permission, which allows broadcasters to use the threat of, or actual, blackouts to extort higher fees that are ultimately paid by subscribers.

Major rules governing the U.S.  media marketplace were first written in 1934 and last updated for the media in the 1992 Cable Act. These rules were written at a time when the Internet was still in its infancy and multiple streaming options didn’t exist.

TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 Breaks Blackout Record as Broadcasters Rake in Billions from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 1,000 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  With 213 blackouts, 2017 was the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 201 blackouts in 2019
  • 165 blackouts in 2018
  • 213 blackouts in 2017
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010

The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.

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