Originally posted Monday, July 22, 2019 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
In the third retransmission fee dispute to go public in the past few days, the CW69 (WUPA-TV) in Atlanta Saturday blacked out for DirecTV subscribers.
AT&T, which owns DirecTV, is in a battle with CBS over retransmission fees. CBS, which owns the CW69, chose to pull that secondary network rather than its primary network.
If it stays dark this week, DirecTV subscribers would miss out on new episodes of “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” “Pandora,” “Jane the Virgin,” “iZombie,” “The Big Stage” and “Masters of Illusion.”
AT&T provided a detailed statement saying the New York-based company “offered to pay CBS an unprecedented rate increase to keep WUPA-CW available. That increase would present CBS the highest fee we currently pay to any major broadcast network group, despite the fact that their primary broadcast network CBS has lost more than half of its primetime audience among adults age 18-49 in the past decade.”
AT&T then said CBS has has removed channels from rival providers in the past and threatened other blackouts “to ensure much higher fees. CBS continues to demand unsustainable price increases even as more viewers abandon its primary network, the most popular shows like ‘Big Bang Theory’ end their runs, and CBS keeps shifting its most anticipated shows to [streaming service] CBS All Access.”
And then it went for the zinger: “In short, CBS is seeking to convert a free, publicly subsidized broadcast station into a high-cost channel while leaving cable and satellite customers holding the bag.”
Both sides are grappling with changing viewing habits as millions of viewers and customers now rely solely on streaming services. AT&T is readying its own WarnerMedia streaming service called HBO Max while CBS is, as AT&T describes it, “antagonizing their most loyal viewers, and then up-selling a CBS All Access subscription.”
According to AT&T, CW shows remain available in Atlanta through a Local Channel Connector that can place CW69 into the program guides of many DirecTV customers with Genie receivers. The network can also be viewed using an over-the-air antenna, the WUPA-CW website, cwtv.com or the CW mobile app.
I will update this story with CBS’s statement when I get one. (As of Tuesday morning, I have heard nothing.)
Last week, CBS said:
“CBS has reached timely, fair agreements with hundreds of other cable, satellite, telco and internet providers to carry our industry-leading, fan-favorite programming. AT&T, however, continues to propose unfair terms well below those agreed to by its competitors and may drop CBS unless we agree to those terms.”
Fox Sports regional networks, owned now by Disney, are threatening to pull Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast (carriers of the Atlanta Braves) from Dish Network today if a deal isn’t signed. And CBS46 has been off the air for local Dish subscribers for the past six days over another dispute with Meredith Corp., which owns the Atlanta CBS affiliate WGCL-TV.
In fact, these blackouts are becoming more common. According to the American Television Alliance, an advocacy group representing cable and satellite distributors, this AT&T/CBS dispute is the 213th so far in 2019. There were just eight in 2010.
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