WSB-TV goes dark on DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse over carriage fee dispute

This was posted Sunday, January 1, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

AT&T was unable to come to an agreement with Channel 2 WSB-TV by January 1 so the station is no longer available as of Sunday at 3:01 a.m. for DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse customers. (This also impacts any television station Cox owns across the country.)

[UPDATE: 6:50 p.m. Cox Media Group television in all 10 markets including WSB-TV in Atlanta have resolved its issues with AT&T though what time it will come back on in Atlanta is unclear.]

ExploreWSB-TV posted this note on its website:

We regret any inconvenience caused by the decision of AT&T/DIRECTV to remove Channel 2 WSB-TV from its channel lineups. We continue to negotiate with AT&T/DIRECTV and expect to have a deal in place soon that will return Channel 2 WSB-TV to your service. Our signal remains available free over-the-air with an antenna, or live streamed on over desktop and smart phones, on our mobile apps, and on the station app on Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire. Channel 2 is also available on  every other pay-TV provider in Atlanta. Contact AT&T or DIRECTV today and tell them to bring back Channel 2 WSB-TV.

Tim McVay, general manager and vice president, added this in a press release:

"We're just as disappointed as our viewers that Channel 2 WSB-TV has been dropped from AT&T's and DIRECTV's video services.  It is unfortunate that AT&T/DIRECTV, which is one of the world's biggest companies, has decided to use Atlanta television viewers as pawns in their effort to obtain unreasonable rates for Channel 2 WSB-TV programming."

AT&T offered this note on the screen where WSB-TV would normally air for DirecTV and U-Verse customers:

"The owner of this channel has removed it from the U-verse lineup despite our request to keep it available to you. Visit for more information on this station's return."

The company also released this statement Sunday morning:

"We want to get WSB back into our DIRECTV and U-verse customers' lineups and share their immediate frustration. The station's owner, Cox Broadcasting, is preventing its signal from reaching those homes unless they receive a significant increase in fees just to allow the same families to keep watching shows that remain available for free over-the-air on channel 2 and that ABC typically streams for free at and to fans using the WatchABC app. Cox has suspended its stations briefly from other TV providers' customers before, so we appreciate our customers' patience as we work to resolve this matter quickly and reasonably."

McVay said it did not remove its station off the air, as AT&T is stating on the screen. WSB-TV, he said, offered deals to keep the station on air while they kept negotiating but AT&T refused.

Cable and satellite carriers of networks pay them fees to air their programming. Occasionally, the two sides can't come to a deal by a particular deadline and the network is taken off the air. Typically, these blackouts don't last very long.

Dish TV took WXIA-TV off for a few hours in October, 2015 over a similar issueTurner also had a dispute with DishTV in 2014 that took the CNN, truTV and Cartoon Network off its service for about a month. And WSB-TV had a comparable battle with Charter in early 2014 that took the station off the air for less than a day.

The longest local dispute involved 50 Braves games a year for three years on Fox Sports for Dish customers.

ExploreThis story has some of the programming subscribers may miss if this dispute lasts a few days.

WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are both part of Cox Media Group.