DirecTV, Tegna strike multi-year distribution deal

DirecTV and Tegna reached a multi-year distribution deal over the weekend, marking an end to a channel blackout that started in November.

The new deal covers the broadcaster’s 64 owned stations and returned programming to DirecTV systems in 51 markets including on DirecTV satellite, virtual MVPD DirecTV Stream and U-Verse. Financial terms were not disclosed.

More than five dozen Tegna-owned ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates had been unavailable on DirecTV systems since November after a programming contract expired between the two without a new agreement in place.

Stations were restored immediately Saturday following the deal, starting with NBC affiliates ahead of the weekend’s NFL playoff game featuring the Cleveland Browns against the Houston Texans, with remaining stations coming online at the same time or shortly after.

It marks the end of the latest channel blackout amid a contract dispute between a broadcaster and pay TV provider. Disputes are not uncommon as broadcasters like Tegna are allowed to demand fees from distributors like DirecTV in exchange for the right to retransmit their stations. However, these lucrative retransmission fees, which are typically passed on to consumers via monthly bill, have been increasing and some distributors have pushed back as they also deal with shrinking subscriber bases as cord cutting continues in the face of steeper TV prices alongside more  – and often cheaper – content options for consumers. Coinciding with the new Tegna deal, a DirecTV spokesperson said the company will continue to work with station owners and networks “to align the price customers pay with the value they receive.”

In an in earlier interview with StreamTV Insider during the Tegna dispute, DirecTV Chief Content Officer Rob Thun said the company was considering a new approach in which it could replace missing broadcast stations with national network feeds, where rather than pay increasing retransmission consent fees for channels, it instead potentially wouldn’t need local broadcasters to be part of the mix.

"We don't need the stations to deliver the network content — we can go get it from the network," Thun said in December. "So, why don't we work on that construct? And, by the way, we've had those conversations with the networks."

Indeed, to that end, StreamTV Insider earlier this month confirmed that DirecTV in December quietly tested transmitting a national NBC feed in a handful of locations where local Tegna affiliates were unavailable to the operator’s customers.

The transmission wasn’t promoted by DirecTV as an alternate way to watch NBC shows or sports. At the time a DirecTV spokesperson confirmed to StreamTV Insider that the company was "testing some capabilities as we explore alternative delivery options to help offset the rising costs of retransmission consent." According to the spokesperson, the test involved DirecTV’s satellite and streaming TV products and had since concluded.