According to Stephenson, the ball is in CBS’ court.
“CBS is an interesting situation,” Stephenson said. “The bid/ask, candidly is not that wide. It’s kind of an interesting dynamic. We sent what I’d say was a reasonable and fair offer over five days ago and it’s been crickets. We haven’t heard anything. Haven’t even gotten a response to the offer. When you’re as close as we are, we find it a little interesting that we’re still sitting here dark and not having interaction with CBS. I’m guessing they’re probably distracted with other negotiations right now, but I don’t know.”
CBS did not offer extensive initial comment on Stephenson’s characterization when contacted by Deadline, but a spokesperson said the company is “ready and willing to negotiate.”
The AT&T CEO went on to provide an update on the company’s parallel carriage battle with Nexstar, which has left more than 100 local stations across the country dark since early July.
“Nexstar is a different situation,” Stephenson said. “Their opening bid in the negotiations was a 100% increase.” In addition, he added, Nexstar was including Tribune Media into the deal terms, ahead of its projected fall close of the $4.1 billion deal to acquire the local TV rival. “So it began with kind of a non-starter.”
Even though, per Stephenson, Nexstar has lowered its proposal to a 50% hike over the previous contract, “That one may take longer” than CBS. “We’re going to have to be resolute. We’re not going to impose those kinds of price increases on our customers. Interestingly enough … our customers, in a world of streaming, are finding other ways to access this content.”
AT&T is among the donors to Locast, a non-profit organization which provides digital streams of local TV stations.