DirecTV and Newsmax reach multi-year carriage deal, ending heated dispute

Pay TV provider DirecTV and Newsmax announced reaching a multi-year distribution deal that will see the conservative news channel return to DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and U-Verse systems on Thursday, ending a months-long carriage dispute between the two. 

The 24-7 news channel was pulled from DirecTV on January 25 after the two companies were unable to agree to terms for a new deal. Things got heated as the dispute dragged on, and Newsmax took to the airwaves and online to assert that DirecTV was purposefully trying to stifle or censor conservative viewpoints, with some politicians and community leaders also getting involved. DirecTV for its part maintained that it wasn’t about ideology but rather business, claiming that Newsmax was trying to extract unreasonable fees for its lower-rated network and for the first time seeking “tens of millions of dollars” in licensing fees. Newsmax, meanwhile, said it was seeking a modest fee of about $1 per cable subscriber per year.

The two finally reached an agreement, though terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Newsmax recognizes and appreciates that DirecTV clearly supports diverse voices, including conservative ones,” said Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, in a statement. “As a standalone company, DirecTV helped give Newsmax its start nearly a decade ago as it continues to do with upcoming news networks, which is why we are pleased to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that will deliver our network to DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and U-verse customers over the next several years.”

To show its commitment to a range of viewpoints, DirecTV amid the dispute added The First, a previously streaming-only channel that features conservative opinion and commentary.  After DirecTV dropped Newsmax some Republican lawmakers as well as Jewish community leaders also voiced concern over the pay TV provider not reaching new terms to offer the channel. DirecTV continued to maintain that it didn’t want to pass on increased costs to consumers to distribute Newsmax, which it’s carried since 2014.  

According to DirecTV, Newsmax will be available on its systems at no additional cost to customers. DirecTV also carries CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, News Nation and The First.

“This resolution with Newsmax, resolving an all-too-common carriage dispute, underscores our dedication to delivering a wide array of programming and perspectives to our customers,” said Bill Morrow, CEO of DirecTV, in a statement. “Through our persistent negotiations, we reached a resolution under mutually-agreeable business terms allowing us to deliver the conservative news network at the right value – a reflection of the free market at work.”

In announcing the carriage deal, DirecTV noted it marks the latest resolution of a dispute – something it said is “an unfortunate but increasingly frequent occurrence involving nearly every pay TV and streaming provider attempting to keep rising consumer costs in check.” It went on to say that over the past five years the industry has seen at least 140 separate disputes between programmers or station groups against primary distributors.

Sometimes carriage disputes turn litigious – as it did with Comcast and regional sports network Altitude Sports. The two just settled a multi-year antitrust lawsuit over the cable giant’s carriage of the Altitude RSN but without a new distribution deal in place.

DirecTV itself was the subject of a lawsuit brought on by One America News Network last year, with a California judge ruling in January that the pay TV provider was within its right not to renew a carriage deal.