Tribune Media has agreed to another extension of its expired retrans deal with AT&T's U-verse (NYSE: T), staving off a possible blackout involving 24 local TV stations on U-verse until 5 p.m. EST on Oct. 13.
The two sides have been working to renew a broadcast retransmission deal that expired Sept. 30.
As the two sides continue to work to reach an agreement, it seems that Tribune at least is lowering the tone of its rhetoric. Tribune stations including Chicago's WGN-TV had been running banners on their websites to direct U-verse subscribers to call AT&T and urge them to come to terms. However, those stations have now discontinued those banner ads.
The temporary deal between AT&T and Tegna is just one of many ongoing battles over the fees that pay-TV operators pay to local TV station broadcasters for the permission to rebroadcast their content. These so-called retransmission licensing contracts have become increasingly contentious. For example, Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) recently inked a short-term extension to its own retransmission agreement with Tegna; that extension is set to expire Friday. Tegna (formerly Gannett) has the ability to black out 51 stations in 39 markets, should the two sides be unable to come to terms.
A third potential blackout -- between DirecTV and Media General -- was averted last week when the two sides reached a long-term deal.
The slow negotiations come after retrans fees grew 40 percent per pay-TV subscriber over the last year. The FCC has signaled that it's ready to make key changes to how it regulates retransmission licensing talks, and broadcasters are aggressively pushing for the best possible retrans deals before the regulatory landscape shifts.
Remarking on a retrans impasse that unfolded in September between Dish and Sinclair, Diffusion Group analyst Alan Wolk said, "That may be the reason why Sinclair is driving such a hard bargain with Dish right now -- they see a limited future and want to cash in now."
- read this Broadcasting & Cable story
Dish and Tegna pull back from the brink, extend current retrans deal 8 days
Blackout Thursday: DirecTV comes to terms with Media General; Dish and U-verse still haggling with station groups
AT&T facing Tribune blackout on U-verse, Media General interruption on DirecTV