Millions of Viewers Across The United States Could Be Deprived Of Local News, Sports And Entertainment Programming.
That’s the somewhat sensational headline on a press release distributed Friday by Sinclair Broadcast Group regarding a most-serious conundrum facing the TV station owner: Should it fail to reach a new retransmission consent deal with AT&T, its stations will be blocked from subscribers of AT&T TV NOW, U-Verse and DirecTV.
It’s a one-week warning for subscribers of the trio of AT&T-owned TV services.
According to Sinclair, it provided AT&T with a five-week extension in an attempt to avoid disruption for consumers. However, starting 5pm Eastern on Friday, Sept. 27 — in the absence of a new deal — those with AT&T TV NOW, U-Verse and DirecTV could be subject to “blackout” of any Sinclair TV station
In West Palm Beach, that means CBS affiliate WPEC-12 will be blocked, preventing locals from seeing any NFL game coverage. In other markets, post-season Major League Baseball on FOX and the start of both the NBA and National Hockey League seasons on ABC and NBC, respectively, could be prevented, depending on the market.
Sinclair’s 136 television stations include the Big Four networks in addition to The CW Network and MyNetwork TV.
It also owns and/or operates 23 regional sports network brands, which it recently acquired from FOX.
While a deal could certainly come in the next week, it may not be likely. Sinclair pointed to “recent actions taken by AT&T during carriage negotiations with other broadcasters,” which it said “should significantly concern the millions of subscribers of AT&T and DirecTV who watch these stations.”
Sinclair SVP/General Counsel David Gibber added, “AT&T is the largest MVPD in the country and seems intent on using its tremendous market power to dictate to viewers which programming from other content providers they can receive, even as they continue to acquire content providers and push their own content to viewers. Despite the tremendous market power of AT&T, most consumers of AT&T and DirecTV do have some other alternatives to receive our in-demand programming. Although it would be unfortunate to lose AT&T and DirecTV as customers, we are simply not prepared to sell our programming to them at the below market rates they are demanding due to their overwhelming market power.”