Owners hope to reach an agreement soon that will restore WANE-TV to the DirecTV channel lineup, but two months after the Fort Wayne CBS affiliate was removed from the slot, they were not making any projections on when that would happen.
Carriers of the WANE signal have contracts that pay the station for carrying it on their platforms. The contracts have terms to them, and the term for the DirecTV slot ended on midnight July 4.
Without reaching an agreement on the price and other carrying terms, WANE disappeared from the DirecTV lineup a minute after the contract expired, said Tom Antisdel, the station’s vice president and general manager.
WANE is represented in the contract renewal negotiations by its owner, Nexstar Media Group, and DirecTV is represented by its owner, AT&T.
At WANE, “we were under the understanding … the signal would be kept on during the negotiations, but obviously they pulled us off,” Antisdel said.
“I can tell you the talks continue as they have since July 4. I would say both sides are trying to get through this process as quickly as possible. There is really no timetable in place, but we want to get back on as soon as possible.”
When DirecTV subscribers in the WANE footprint look for the station’s programming on the satellite television platform, they get a brief description of what is happening from AT&T’s perspective with a reference to tvpromise.com for more in-depth information.
“By law, Nexstar controls whether or not any provider like AT&T can offer its channels. AT&T cannot deliver WANE to any customers without meeting Nexstar’s demands in order to obtain that permission,” said AT&T spokesman Phil Hayes in an email.
“Nexstar has exclusive control over which customers in Fort Wayne are allowed to receive CBS regardless of the provider you choose. Nexstar has blacked out DISH Network, Charter Spectrum and Cox customers before too,” he said.
“Nexstar is demanding the largest increase AT&T has ever seen proposed by any content provider. In addition, Nexstar wants much higher payments for stations and a low-rated cable network they don’t own, as well as carriage commitments and still more fees for channels that don’t even exist.”
As most local cord-cutters probably know, a relatively unobtrusive, signal-boosting antenna system sitting on a desk or table near a sliding glass door has been able to provide great reception in the city for all Fort Wayne television stations for years.
Based on current trends, an eMarketer forecast released Aug. 6 projects the number of U.S. households with pay TV subscriptions such as satellite or cable will have fallen from 100.5 million in 2013 to 72.7 million in 2023, while the number without will have grown from 26.6 million to 56.1 million.
Asked if the loss of a major network in DirecTV’s lineup could accelerate the local pace of cord-cutting, Antisdel said he had no evidence of that, but it would be a natural assumption because with all the new entertainment and information alternatives available such as Netflix and Hulu, “everything’s in play.”
At AT&T, “when customers have any issues, we work with them individually to try to earn their satisfaction. Customers with other providers frequently experience blackouts too. Nexstar has pulled or threatened to pull its signals from consumers with Cox Cable, DISH and Charter Spectrum and now us,” Hayes said.
“In fact, broadcasters like Nexstar have already been involved in an all-time high of 230 blackouts this year, more than 650 in the past 3.5 years, and nearly 1,200-plus since 2010.”
As parties to the negotiations approach autumn, with its new CBS shows and sports programming such as professional and collegiate football, pressure will increase on both sides to reach an agreement, Antisdel said.
He hopes that happens, he said, because “we don’t take what we do as a news organization lightly, and people say you are the number one news station in the market and we miss you.”
At AT&T, “we hope to be able to return WANE as soon as possible, but that depends on Nexstar,” Hayes said.
“As the owner of the station and the one licensed by the government to provide it, they are the only ones who can determine whether WANE is available on DIRECTV or U-verse or any other cable, satellite or other telecom provider. We continue to negotiate with Nexstar and hope to have the station back soon.”