AT&T reaches retrans deal with Hearst, ends weeklong blackout of 33 stations

DirecTV rooftop satellite dish
Hearst blacked out its channels on AT&T U-verse and DirecTV on Jan. 1.

AT&T has reached a broadcast retransmission renewal deal with Hearst Television, restoring 33 network affiliates to DirecTV and U-verse after a weeklong blackout. 

“We remain committed to the future of localism—ensuring the viability of local investigative journalism, breaking news and weather coverage, and quality local and national programming,” said Hearst in a statement released on its website. “We regret the inconvenience to DirecTV subscribers and are indebted to them and all of our advertisers for their support.”

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The broadcaster blacked out its channels on Jan. 1, after failing to reach an agreement with AT&T. 

For AT&T, the blackout is but one of a steady stream of program service interruptions stemming from retrans disputes. Over the summer, for example, DirecTV was blacked out for five weeks on eight Heartland Media stations and also had a retrans battle with Sunbeam in Boston and Miami.

The AT&T-Hearst dispute was one of more than a half-dozen retrans spats that popped up amid the new year. 

On Sunday, Altice USA announced that Meredith Corp. is threatening to pull Connecticut station WFSB-TV off its service.

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“We want to carry WFSB Channel 3 at a reasonable rate and have already offered them an increase in retransmission fees,” Altice said in a statement. “However, Meredith Corporation…is threatening to pull its station from our Optimum lineups in Connecticut in an attempt to force us and our customers to pay even more—an outrageous nearly 300 percent increase in fees for the exact same programming they currently deliver.”

“Skyrocketing programming costs, particularly those charged by broadcasters, are the greatest contributor to rising cable bills, and we are working hard to keep those costs as low as possible for our customers,” Altice continued. “This behavior is anti-consumer, and we urge Meredith Corp. to stop the threats and leave WFSB on while we negotiate an agreement that is fair for our Connecticut Optimum customers.” 

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