Update on Northwest Broadcasting Dispute with DIRECTV (7/24/19)

On February 22, 2019, ATT/Directv made the calculated choice to deprive their customers of the local television stations provided by Northwest Broadcasting everywhere Northwest does business. ATT/Directv did this even though on numerous occasions Northwest had offered an unconditional extension to keep the stations on their systems while negotiations continued.

ATT/Directv has for years been lobbying the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking that in a retransmission negotiation that stations not be allowed to withhold their programming so as not to disrupt their customers. From the beginning of our negotiations Northwest said that under no circumstance would it disrupt ATT/Directv subscribers. For 13 months Northwest extended its agreement with ATT/Directv while attempting to negotiate a successful agreement with them. However, disrupting their subscribers turned out to be exactly ATT/Directv’s strategy.

Over the past few months, it has become clear that ATT/Directv decided that with its financial might, it developed a new strategy of dealing with broadcasters. Approximately eight weeks ago, despite an extension offered by the several different broadcasters, ATT/Directv disrupted their customers in 20 more cities. Then over the 4th of July holiday ATT/Directv disrupted their customers again. Nexstar Broadcasting offered ATT/Direct an extension to August 2nd to work through its agreement, however, ATT/Directv refused the extension and took the stations away from their subscribers. Just days ago, ATT/Directv disrupted their customers again by taking the CBS Network stations away from their subscribers.

At some point you must look at ATT/Directv as the constant in an equation that has left approximately 148 cities without access to over 225 television stations and ask what is going on. As many of you may know, ATT recently purchased Time Warner’s programming, so they are now in direct competition with broadcasters like Northwest for viewers like you. It appears that their disruption strategy is to move viewers to their properties while creating a situation while deflecting the blame of these outages to the broadcasters. This is exactly what they are telling the federal regulators.

ATT/Directv, a company that has a market valuation of over 300 billion dollars has been lobbying congress for protection against broadcasters for years, pleading that they are at the mercy of these broadcasters who are a fraction of its size. ATT would have you believe that they are defenseless against companies like Northwest and they need the government to step in an protect them. Seriously?

ATT/Directv does not seem to care about their subscribers at all. When Northwest requested that Directv leave the station on due to public safety concerns, they said, “people don’t need your stations they can get their news and weather elsewhere” Yet, at the same time they try to convince the regulators that they always put public safety first. ATT has convinced the government to trust them with running a private public partnership called FirstNet. FirstNet is a first responder communication system that ATT will receive billions of dollars to build and operate.  ATT is spending millions of dollars running ads for FirstNet claiming that are doing this to help make your community be safer, smarter and stronger. Does this sound like the same Company who deprives you of your local news and weather information which in times of emergencies you rely on for your safety?

For months, Northwest has tried to find a resolution to this standoff, usually without any response from ATT/Directv. It is clear that ATT/Directv is working a strategy that is far bigger than getting a successful negotiation completed and giving their customers the stations back they want. It has become clear over the last couple of months that they have no intention of getting this done. Up until recently, I have been careful not to tell people to find a different service. However, given ATT/Directv’s lack of response to Northwest and their recent actions to systematically create television outages around the country, I don’t see a solution on the horizon. At this point I would tell you that if you want to continue watching our stations you will need to switch from ATT/Directv.