DirecTV said that it was adding the conservative channel The First to its lineup, after it dropped Newsmax from its lineup in a dispute that stirred the ire of Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The First, which features personalities including Bill O’Reilly and Dana Loesch, will be available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and U-verse at no extra fees for subscribers. Up to now, it has been available only through streaming distribution, including on FAST networks.
The announcement comes as Newsmax went dark on DirecTV. The satellite service owned by AT&T and private equity firm TPG blamed the removal on Newsmax’s insistence on its demands for “significant fees” from DirecTV at a time when the conservative network already is available for free on streaming platforms and online. Those fees, according to DirecTV, would have to be passed on to consumers.
Newsmax, however, claims that it is being censored, while noting that the free streaming will end later this year. “DirecTV believes Newsmax should receive ZERO cable fees even though it is the fourth-highest-rated cable news channel in the nation, according to Nielsen,” the company said in a statement.
In a statement, Newsmax said: While we are glad AT&T DirecTV is adding a conservative commentary channel, it is a pathetic attempt to deal with millions of angry viewers who still want Newsmax for our top-rated shows, personalities, and in-depth news coverage. You can’t replace a Cadillac with a Honda.”
A group of lawmakers fired off a letter to DirecTV, AT&T and TPG officials to protest the move, and Rep. Mary Miller (R-TX), in a segment on Newsmax on Thursday, blamed the move on the size of tech companies. Newsmax also has noted that DirecTV dropped One America News Network, another conservative channel, last year. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) called for a Senate hearing.
Ron Thun, chief content officer at DirecTV, said in a statement that the satellite network “values different viewpoints and perspectives and will always work to preserve expansive choice among a wide variety of entertainment and information services to appeal to the unique tastes and interests of our diverse customer base. As we’ve successfully done with other emerging channels, we look forward to helping The First continue to expand its audience reach, while constantly ensuring that our customers receive strong value.”
DirecTV has lost subscribers in recent years due to cord-cutting, particularly in its traditional satellite business, but still has about 13 million customers. That makes it one of the top pay-TV operators in the U.S.
Dade Hayes contributed to this report.
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