Monday, July 22, 2019

CBS-TV Goes Dark To AT&T Customers

CBS, the nation’s most-watched television network, went dark for more than 6.5 million AT&T customers early Saturday after the two media giants couldn’t agree on a new contract.

The NY Times reports the network was cut off from AT&T’s satellite service DirecTV as well as the landline-delivered U-verse and DirecTV Now, the live streaming product.

The companies had been negotiating for several weeks but failed to agree on pricing and streaming rights before the contract expired on Saturday at 2 a.m., Eastern time.

In a statement, CBS said it “made every effort to avoid this blackout,” but that it wouldn’t agree to terms that “undervalue our hit programming.”

AT&T called CBS a “repeat blackout offender” and said the network had been demanding “unprecedented increases” in the fees it charges.

AT&T television customers in at least 14 markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, lost their feeds to CBS. The network is carried in about 119 million homes across the country, either on a pay television service or free over the air. The affected customers account for tens of millions of dollars in monthly revenue to CBS.

Broadcasters like CBS receive what’s known as retransmission consent fees — the equivalent of a monthly licensing fee — from distributors like DirecTV. CBS is asking for an increase over the rate it last negotiated in 2012, when market conditions were different and pay-television bills were cheaper.

Since CBS is a broadcast network, it’s still free to watch over the air using an antenna. But it and other broadcasters also sell their rights to pay-TV operators like AT&T, which carry the network on their systems.

CBS had been paid an average of a little over $2 for each AT&T subscriber every month, and it is now seeking a fee in the range of $3, three people familiar with the matter said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract negotiations are considered private.

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