DIRECTV forced to black out Tegna stations

While 2020 hasn’t exactly been the most wonderful year for most of us, there have been bright spots if you are willing to look for them. One of those has been the relative lack of channel blackouts for DIRECTV and DISH. Or, at least thus far.

I don’t know exactly what to make of the lack of channel blackouts. Maybe the pandemic has made people feel a little more charitable, or maybe lawyers don’t get as vicious when they’re working from home. Either way, most of us haven’t seen a channel blackout since the world changed back in early March.

Until now.

Apparently there’s a limit to the amount of cooperation that you can expect, even in times like these. The details are all private, of course, but somehow AT&T and Tegna, a large owner/operator of local stations, got to an impasse. That meant that 60 local channels across the country went dark, as AT&T no longer had permission to broadcast them.

Both sides say they are still working toward a contract, but in the meantime all these channels have gone dark on DIRECTV (and I presume AT&T TV as well.) I think that’s a real shame at a time when people are relying on local news and information more than ever.

Remember too that it’s also a time when there are fewer new shows on network TV and when there is less live sports as well. That means that there’s no doubt that these channels themselves are less valuable than they would normally be.

But, then again I do understand that these negotiations are generally for three-year contracts. By 2023, all the stuff we’ve dealt with this year should be long behind us. Still it’s hard to believe that local channel ratings (which have been on a more or less constant slide since the mid-1980s) will suddenly reverse course and improve.

What you can do

There’s a very simple way to make sure that you’re always able to get your local channels. Simply get an antenna from Solid Signal. About 95% of the country can get local TV channels using an antenna. Once you buy the antenna and install it yourself, there’s nothing more to pay, ever. You’ll get access to all the top-rated shows and you’ll never have to worry about channel blackouts.

Yes, it’s true that you won’t be able to record live TV as part of your DIRECTV setup. This is a capability that used to exist, but the parts aren’t sold anymore. But, you’ll still get that live TV you crave and you’ll stay connected at this critical time.

What you shouldn’t do

Companies like Tegna will tell you that you should switch to another provider, immediately. This is really silly, honestly. Most of the time these blackouts are solved in a fairly short time. It’s rare that they last more than a week or two and even that’s a long time. In the meantime, if you switch providers you may find yourself paying early termination fees and switching to a provider that you just don’t like as much.

Let’s hope this gets fixed quickly

Because honestly, this is the kind of shenanigans we don’t need this year. I’m sure that AT&T is willing to make a very fair offer to the folks at Tegna — they’ve said as much — and I challenge the folks at Tegna to make an honest appraisal of their stations’ worth and respond fairly. Then we can get on with our lives.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.