AT&T And Nexstar Settle Carriage Dispute That Blacked Out Stations In 97 Markets


AT&T and Nexstar Media Group, which is poised to become the No. 1 owner of local TV stations in the U.S., have resolved a nearly two-month carriage dispute affecting 120 stations in 97 markets.

The companies did not release financial terms but said their new multi-year deal will allow the stations to return to AT&T’s DirecTV, AT&T TV and U-verse systems. The carriage dispute is one of many high-profile flare-ups in the traditional TV bundle of late, as the economics of pay-TV undergo profound change in the era of stand-alone streaming services and dramatically advancing technology. AT&T had a fight with CBS stations earlier this summer. Dish Network resolved one long-running dispute with Univision but remains at odds with HBO and the former Fox regional sports networks.

In announcing the settlement, the companies said they “regret the inconvenience incurred by customers, viewers and advertisers, and we thank them for their patience, as the new agreement was being finalized.”

Last month, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had offered some barbed comments about the state of negotiations during the company’s quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

Nexstar, which is moving closer to closing a $4.1 billion deal to acquire Tribune Media and become the country’s top station group, had factored Tribune into its calculations, Stephenson asserted. “Their opening bid in the negotiations was a 100% increase,” the CEO said, calling that a “non-starter.” Rather than accept a steep increase in carriage fees and pass along the cost to customers, he said, “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.”

In Thursday’s announcement, AT&T Communications SVP of Content and Programming Rob Thun said the company’s customers “want more choice and value and we are pleased to deliver that through this new agreement with Nexstar and its many local stations.”

Keith Hopkins, Nexstar’s SVP of Distribution, added, “Nexstar’s long-standing commitment is to provide exceptional programming and service to the local communities we serve across the United States and this new multi-year agreement will allow us to continue delivering our stations’ leading network and sports content as well as local news and other programming to AT&T subscribers in our markets.”

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