Nexstar stations pulled from DirecTV systems in retrans dispute

Just under 160 Nexstar Media-owned local broadcast stations across 113 markets were pulled from DirecTV systems over the holiday weekend after the two companies were unable to reach a new retransmission consent agreement.

The channel blackout came to bear on Sunday and means the pay TV provider had to drop 159 local stations across its satellite, DirecTV Stream, and U-Verse systems including in markets of Los Angles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver. DirecTV asserts the blackout came after it denied Nexstar terms that required DirecTV pay “more than double the previous fees for the same content,” leading to what it claims is the largest local TV outage in U.S. history. Not reaching a new agreement means DirecTV lost rights to air Nexstar-controlled ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and The CW stations in select markets, along with national cable news network NewsNation.

DirecTV also said Nexstar tries to force The CW (which Nexstar acquired a 75% stake in last year) and less popular channels into the pay TV provider’s lineups, which would raise prices for consumers.

And while it may be the largest local channel blackout, DirecTV was sure to point out that it isn’t the first – holding up the current dispute as the latest example of Nexstar seeking higher prices and threatening or forcing blackouts on numerous systems, including on Verizon Fios and Comcast Xfinity in 2022 and Dish Network, Fubo, and Altice in 2023.

“Nexstar has a long track record of forcing programming outages in an effort to unnecessarily raise prices for everyone at the expense of the communities they are licensed and entrusted to serve," said Rob Thun, chief content officer of DirecTV, in a statement. “We will continue to work with Nexstar to reach an agreement and will take all necessary actions to provide our customers access to their favorite programming while protecting them from unwarranted price increases.”

As for Nexstar, the station owner said that DirecTV rejected its offer to extend the current distribution agreement to October 31. Nexstar said that as a result, DirecTV’s more than 10 million customers “have lost their access to local news traffic, weather, sports, and entertainment programming, critical updates regarding summer storms and tornadoes, as well as the upcoming battle in soccer for the Women’s Word Cup, and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.”

Nexstar went on to say that it “has been negotiating tirelessly and in good faith in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable multi-year contract with DirecTV since May, offering the same fair market rates it offered to other distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations in the past year.”

DirecTV and Nexstar have butted heads before, with the former accusing the broadcaster of using loopholes to skirt and exceed national TV ownership rules. That came up in a prior disagreement over 27 stations from Mission and White Knight Broadcasting, which have been off DirecTV systems in 23 metro areas since last October when new retrans terms couldn’t be reached. DirecTV asserted that Nexstar is orchestrating negotiations for stations that it essentially controls through certain agreements but does not own in an effort to manipulate the cost of retransmission consent fees, and in March filed a federal antitrust lawsuit and more recently a legal complaint with the FCC. On the White Knight and Mission front, Nexstar maintained that itself had no hand in negotiations and “does not control any of these television stations.”