WATERTOWN — DirecTV customers in the north country have not been able to view WWTI-ABC 50 programming for several days due to a contract dispute between parent companies.
Nexstar Media Group which owns the Watertown station and 173 others across the country, and AT&T, which owns DirecTV, could not reach a new distribution agreement, resulting in a blackout that began Thursday, ABC 50 wrote in an online statement. AT&T, the largest television service provider in the nation, also refused an offer from Nexstar, Irving, Texas, to extend its existing agreement and keep providing DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse users its programs until a new agreement could be reached, Nexstar wrote in a news release Friday.
The local station’s general manager, David J. Males, could not be reached for comment on Monday.
“We were negotiating, and offered multiple times to extend our current deal while we vigorously attempted to provide both sides more time to reach a fair agreement,” ABC 50 said.
Both Nexstar, which operates local affiliates of the major networks ABC, Fox, NBC, The CW and CBS; and AT&T have blamed each other for the dispute and allowing the blackout.
According to the Dallas Morning News, AT&T wrote in a statement that Nexstar demanded “the largest increase that AT&T has ever seen from any content provider,” despite the major networks combined losing about 50 percent of their primetime audience in recent years. Nexstar, whose stations reach 39 percent of U.S. households, claimed AT&T “misled” the company about the deadline for negotiations, according to last week’s report.
“Nexstar has been negotiating in good faith to establish a mutually agreeable contract with AT&T/DirecTV and has offered AT&T/DirecTV the same rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations with in 2019 to date,” the broadcaster wrote in a statement.
The feud between Nexstar and AT&T is not the first that resulted in a blackout of local television programs for north country DirecTV customers. The TV services provider had a contract dispute with the previous owner of WWNY-TV 7 News and WNYF-TV Fox 28, United Communications Corp., in January. The fight resulted in a blackout that lasted about three weeks until a new agreement was reached.