In news that is about as surprising as the SAG-AFTRA Extension vs. AMPTP (that is, not at all) Nexstar stations went obscure across DirecTV’s satellite, cable, and streaming systems after failing to strike a new carriage deal. Even less of a shock: Nexstar and DirecTV will reach a deal in time for soccer, or even fútbol.
Where DirecTV vs. Nexstar 2023 is atypical is in its scope. With 159 local TV stations in its portfolio (over 200, when partner stations are counted), Nexstar has the largest broadcast footprint in the country. (The FCC says one company can’t have more than 39 percent of the market, but there are workarounds.)
That makes this local TV blackout the largest in the nation’s history. As of Monday, Nexstar’s cable news channel NewsNation is down on DirecTV platforms nationwide. Ditto any Nexstar-controlled CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, or The CW station.
The beef is simple and typical: Nexstar wants more money for its channels, DirecTV believes they’re asking too much. While the timeline for a new carriage deal hasn’t been officially extended (Nexstar says it has offered it), this momentum should be considered part of the negotiation process. The old guard holding out for what could be one last big deal has become increasingly common in the age of streaming.
While television broadcasting may seem as old-fashioned as a satellite dish, these carry charges still have value across sports and news. A giant company like Nexstar, which operates multiple Big 4 broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC) in dozens of markets, provides both.
As this morning’s Nexstar press release quickly referenced, the MLB All-Star Game is on July 11 and the Women’s World Cup kicks off on July 20. August 3rd. The regular season of the NFL begins on September 7th.
If Nexstar controlled your local Fox station, for example, you’d miss out on the MLB All-Star Game and the Women’s World Cup. If your NBC channel was in Nexstar’s portfolio, you’d miss out on “Sunday Night Football” presentations, which include openers. DirecTV, which would bear the brunt of the backlash, would steer affected customers to the Fox app and Peacock, respectively, and issue a credit for the inconvenience.
While we probably won’t get to that point, there is precedent beyond posture. Nexstar went dark on Dish during the 2020 NFL season (Dec. 2-24) and on Verizon in the 2022 season (October 15-28). DirecTV has taken over TDS Broadcasting during the 2020 season (October 2-7) and Cox during the 2021 season (January 28-February 2).