This has been one of the longest channel blackouts I can remember. Since July 3, over 120 stations nationwide have been blacked out on all AT&T properties. This includes DIRECTV, AT&T TV, and those few people who still have U-Verse. These stations, mostly in smaller markets, have finally returned as AT&T has announced a new multiyear contract with their owner. Nexstar, the company that owns all these stations, finally agreed to reasonable terms which allow for all those stations to be carried.
Why do channel blackouts happen?
Well, there’s the science of it and then there’s the art. The by-the-book reason is that a pay-TV company’s contract with a station owner runs out and there’s no contract to replace it. Without a contract, the station owner has a right to demand the station be taken down or blacked out. Eventually, everyone’s lawyers figure out a new contract and the channel comes back.
But the real reasons are a little more saucy: greed and delusion. Of course TV stations are businesses and they’re designed to make money. But station owners continue to ask for more and more money, even when their stations get worse and worse ratings. I do understand that these days a lot of a TV station’s income comes from carriage fees rather than commercials. Pay TV operators like DIRECTV routinely replace the broadcaster’s commercials with their own, if they’re allowed by contract to do that, and that cuts into station profits. But we have gone through a period of about 10 years where station owners have asked for 200%, 300%, and even 500% increases in carriage fees while their ratings continue to decline. It makes no sense and I think AT&T is right to hold their ground.
High costs are cited as the #1 reason people leave pay television, and carriage fees are the #1 reason costs go up. So, the lawyers here are fighting the good fight. They’re fighting for you.
Still it’s kind of funny…
Did you ever notice that the really long channel blackouts always take place during the summer? The station owners miraculously get a lot more interested in playing ball as it looks like their fall ratings are going to suffer. It makes me think the entire thing is just a stupid game.
And really when you think about it, it’s not the pay-TV provider that really suffers here. Most people are on contracts for pay TV and they’re not going to risk an early termination fee just because of a short blackout. On the other hand, when a big company like AT&T is forced to black out a station, its ratings drop immediately. This can affect advertising sales for years to come. Station owners play a dangerous game and they’re the ones getting hurt by it.
The best way to avoid blackouts
You can avoid channel blackouts by getting an antenna from Solid Signal. Yeah it’s true. Watching live can mean giving up DVR features. On the other hand there are no channel blackouts. Not only that it’s always free. It’s an awesome way to make sure you don’t miss shows even in the summer when those station owners are seemingly out of their minds.