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Volume 23 No. 23
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DirecTV ‘to be resolute’ in distribution talks

It wasn’t so long ago that DirecTV marketed itself as a distributor that never let channels go dark as it negotiated deals for TV carriage. Cable operators were the ones who picked distribution fights; not DirecTV.

Times have changed.

CBS-owned and Nexstar-owned broadcast stations are not available on DirecTV, as the satellite provider has been fighting carriage fee increases. And speaking of its Nexstar negotiations, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told an analyst call last week that its DirecTV unit and Nexstar were far apart. “We’ll have to be resolute on this one," he said.

News that DirecTV lost 778,000 subscribers in the second quarter — in addition to reports that streaming service DirecTV Now lost 168,000 subscribers in the quarter — put numbers to the distribution fights it has been having.

It’s not just DirecTV. Dish Network dropped Univision for nine months in a dispute that was resolved in March. It dropped HBO in November. And it’s now trying to negotiate new deals for the Fox-branded RSNs and the Disney-owned FX and National Geographic channels.

The prevailing view is that programming cost increases affect the satellite business more than cable systems, which make much bigger profits off broadband than video. Satellite, of course, does not offer broadband.