It hasn’t been a particularly great year for either of the satellite TV services, DirecTV and Dish Network. Both have been bleeding customers, at a rate even beyond that of cable companies, and the companies that own them both appear to be pivoting to a future in which they’re not an important part. And they probably can’t merge their way out of the problem, either—the government has indicated that any effort to combine DirecTV and Dish Network would face significant regulatory scrutiny.
Now, the satellite companies have another problem: Both of them are in carriage disputes that may soon cost their customers significant numbers of channels.
Nexstar Media Group, the nation’s leading owner of local TV stations, warned last week that if it doesn’t reach an agreement with Dish Network by this Wednesday, Dish customers will lose Nextstar-owned stations, which include the WGN America cable network and 164 local TV stations across the country, in over 100 markets.
“Since July, Nexstar has been negotiating tirelessly and in good faith in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable multi-year contract with DISH, offering DISH the same fair market rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations in 2019 and 2020,” Nexstar said in a statement Friday. “Despite generating nearly $11 billion in revenue during the first nine-months of this year and completing a billion-plus dollar acquisition of a wireless company, DISH has proposed rates that go significantly backwards.”
Meanwhile, Dish’s rival DirecTV is in a similar dispute, with another owner of local TV stations, Tegna.
Per Cord Cutter News, DirecTV and U-Verse, both owned by AT&T, risk losing Tegna’s stations if an agreement isn’t reached by Monday night.
“As many station owners like TEGNA keep losing viewers and sponsors, they’ve resorted to blacking out popular local teams or any remaining hit shows at the worst possible time in order to extract unwarranted increases over their already high fees despite their fading popularity, leaving consumers to foot the bill,” AT&T said on its website, as reported by Cord Cutter News.
As Tegna owns fewer stations in fewer markets as Nextstar, the impact is smaller than that of the Dish dispute, which would reportedly amount to the largest blackout of its kind in history.
A report last week indicated that DirecTV is unlikely to retain the rights to its prized NFL Sunday Ticket package once it expires in 2022, with a bidding war likely among top tech companies to take over the NFL’s exclusive package of out-of-market games. DirecTV has held those rights exclusively per since the NFL launched the package in the early 1990s.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.