Tegna's map of stations in 2022. Tegna’s map of stations in 2022. (Tegna.com.)

The latest local affiliate carriage dispute is now actually happening. Earlier this week, Tegna warned viewers they might pull their local affiliates across the U.S. (mostly CBS and NBC affiliates) from DirecTV if a carriage deal wasn’t reached by 8 p.m. Eastern deadline Thursday. That’s now happened, and it impacts around 5 million of DirecTV’s estimated 12 million customers:

There were concerns about this earlier this week, with the sides seemingly far apart. And now this has progressed into these stations going dark on DirecTV. Here’s more on this from that Deadline piece, by Dade Hayes:

DirecTV’s traditional satellite business, along with the internet-delivered DirecTV stream and the U-Verse cable systems combined have nearly 12 million subscribers in the U.S., according to recent analysts’ estimates.

The Tegna battle affects about 40% of that base, sources indicated to Deadline, with 70% of affected stations being affiliated with either CBS or NBC. Tegna owns 66 stations in 52 markets, including in top such DMAs as Dallas, Phoenix and Denver.

Rob Thun, CEO of DirecTV, faulted the stance of Tegna and other programmers in the current marketplace. “We’re not going to make it up on volume, we’re going to make it up in price,” he told Deadline in an interview, characterizing the bargaining approach of programmers, with carriage fee demands increasing “precipitously” in recent renewal cycles. “If that’s the mentality, you’re going to drive more people out the door because price is what’s driving everyone out of pay-TV.”

Said Tegna in a statement this evening: “Despite months of effort, DirecTV has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with Tegna. As a result, DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse customers will lose access to NFL and college football conference championship games, as well as some of the most popular national network programming and top-rated local news. We urge DirecTV to continue to negotiate with us until a deal is reached that restores our stations to their customers.”

The exact number of stations and markets affected here isn’t clear, with DirecTV citing 68 stations in 52 markets and Tegna saying it’s 64 in 51 markets earlier this week. But this is certainly a big deal. And it could impact several big football games this weekend, including the Georgia-Alabama SEC championship on CBS, CBS’ NFL package (headlined by the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans), and the Kansas City Chiefs-Green Bay Packers Sunday Night Football game on NBC.

There have been plenty of carriage disputes recently, including the Disney-Charter one and a two-month one between DirecTV and Nexstar. And there’s plenty at issue in these disputes, including how much these broadcast (so, also available over-the-air) stations can charge pay-TV providers for retransmission, with their case for high retrans fees often involving expensive but heavily-watched sports events, but with those providers discussing how much of the content on those channels is now also being sold (and sometimes exclusively being sold) in the network owners’ streaming services (Paramount+ and Peacock in this case). We’ll see how this dispute winds up, but it’s another notable one that may wind up having impacts on ratings, finances, and the future of sports TV.

[Deadline; 2022 Tegna map from tegna.com]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.