AT&T, Tegna postpone potential blackout for 24 hours in effort to resolve retrans dispute

AT&T's (NYSE: T) DirecTV and U-Verse units and station owner Tegna have agreed to delay a potential blackout for 24 hours in hopes they can resolve their retransmission dispute. The existing contract is set to expire at midnight. The agreement covers 47 stations and the dispute involves how much AT&T must pay to carry the station's programming.

Tegna station WFAA explained the dispute on its website by telling consumers that in order for WFAA to be delivered to residents, it must negotiate with companies such as AT&T to carry the station and its content. However, WFAA also took the opportunity to chastise AT&T for what it says are unfair negotiations. "Unfortunately, so far DirecTV/AT&T U-verse has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us – even though the terms being offered are fundamentally the same as those that just allowed us to reach a deal with Dish… Unfortunately, in its recent merger with AT&T, DIRECTV promised its Wall Street investors to cut $2 billion from its investment in programming like ours. It is our sincere hope that DIRECTV puts its customers ahead of Wall Street."

Meanwhile, DirecTV responded by posting a statement saying that when a contract dispute arises over station owners' increasing their content fees, DirecTV will not remove them from the lineup; station owners are the ones that take away local stations and content. "Fewer people watch shows on local stations than ever before, but broadcasters continue to demand everyone pay more to get the few shows they do watch. DirecTV must have their permission to broadcast their programming, so if stations can't get whatever they want, they deliberately sideline their signal so nobody can see anything."

The retrans battle between AT&T and Tegna is just one of many that is occurring right now 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 more:
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article

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