Mission, White Knight Broadcasting reject DirecTV plea to restore channels

Channel blackouts by Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting continue for DirecTV customers, as the broadcasters declined the pay TV provider’s request this week to temporarily restore stations through the 2022 midterm elections.

There are 25 Mission stations and two White Knight broadcasting stations that were pulled from DirecTV (as well as DirecTV Stream and U-Verse) this month in separate retrans negotiation disputes. Together they impact an estimated 1.3 million, or 13.5% of the combined total multichannel video subscribers in those 28 markets, according to Justin Nielson, principal analyst at Kagan, S&P’s media research group.

In a statement on Friday, DirecTV said “White Knight Broadcasting and Mission Broadcasting, both actively managed by Nexstar Media Group, have flat-out refused our requests to return their 25 local stations to our customers in 23 media markets through the results of the Nov. 8 mid-term elections.”

DirecTV had cited public interest in its earlier request, saying it’s a critical time in American political life – and it appears the offer is still on the table.

“At the same time, our offer to return the stations and be compensated at a new future higher rate remains completely open, both station groups continue to use their Nexstar-managed news services to propagate the outright lie and misinformation that DirecTV has ‘forced off’ or otherwise ‘removed’ the same stations,” the statement continued.

DirecTV went on to claim that “each broadcaster involved has made clear that abandoning journalistic integrity and betraying the public trust are not only acceptable, but readily available, in their shameless pursuit of financial fortunes.”

As the contentiousness ramps, DirecTV and the American Television Alliance have each called out Nexstar specifically. ATA said Nexstar used “behind-the-scenes manipulation” in three simultaneous negotiations, as well as its market power and influence “to corner the market though sham management agreements with smaller broadcasters” leading to more frequent TV blackouts and higher monthly bills for consumers.

Nexstar manages Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting through shared services or joint sales agreements. However, Nexstar itself says it has no hand in the negotiations.

“Despite DirecTV’s allegations, Nexstar is not a party to these negotiations and does not control any of these television stations. These stations are owned by Mission Broadcasting, Inc., and White Knight Broadcasting, not Nexstar,” said Gary Weitman, EVP and chief communications officer at Nexstar, in a statement provided to Fierce Video.

As for Mission and White Knight, the companies told NextTV that they negotiate their own retransmission deals. Dennis Thatcher, president of Mission Broadcasting told NextTV that the company considered the DirecTV offer to restore stations until the midterms “but at this point we don’t feel like that’s going to advance the ball.” Instead, Thatcher wants to reach a deal suitable for both sides, saying the company wants to be compensated for the value it’s adding with more local programming, per the report.

Meanwhile, White Knight President Toby Malara told the publication that “DirecTV should not cast blame upon the White Knight stations for DirecTV’s own failure to make a meaningful offer” for continued carriage of the stations.  

In an October 26 research note, Kagan’s Nielson pointed to potential financial impacts for the companies if the dispute drags on.

“Using an average of $4.25 to $6.25 per sub per month in retrans fees, prolonged disruption for Mission, White Knight TV stations overlapping DirecTV, U-verse video subs could have a financial impact of $64.3 million to $94.6 million annually,” wrote Nielson. “Kagan estimates total 2022 gross retrans revenue of $178.1 million for the Mission and White Knight TV stations in those 28 overlapping DIRECTV and U-verse video markets, which includes virtual multichannel carriage fees.”

As the DirecTV dispute continues, another one has just been resolved. On Friday, Nexstar announced it reached a new multi-year distribution deal with Verizon, ending a two-week channel black out for Fios customers in 10 markets.