So much for AT&T and Tegna Media’s retransmission consent saber rattling: Tegna says this morning that they’ve reached a “multi-year agreement” that will keep Tegna’s 46 stations on DirecTV and U-verse in local markets.
Per usual, there’s no word yet on financial terms. The brief announcement also doesn’t say whether the companies made other agreements regarding TV Everywhere streaming.
Both sides would have had a big problem if the talks had broken down leaving AT&T customers without Tegna programming. AT&T’s the biggest pay TV distributor with 19.5 million DirecTV customers and 5.9 million with U-verse.
But Tegna — the TV station group formerly known as Gannett — is the largest independent TV station owner. With outlets reaching about a third of U.S. households, it’s the top non-network owner of NBC and CBS affiliates, and No. 4 for ABC.
Tegna had warned that its stations might go dark on AT&T with the December 4 expiration of their contract. The telco “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 Network],” Tegna’s Dallas-based WFAA warned customers.
When AT&T bought DirecTV it “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.
But AT&T blamed Tegna for demanding “unnecessary” price increases at a time when local TV station ratings are declining.
The dispute, and resolution, took place as the FCC is considering changes in its so-called “totality of the circumstances test” to determine whether station owners, cable and satellite operators are negotiating in good faith — something that Congress ordered the FCC to assess when there’s an impasse over retransmission consent terms.