AT&T condemns CBS 17 parent company as dispute enters its second week

Entering Week 2 of the dispute between AT&T and WNCN parent company Nextstar, the cable and satellite giant went on the offensive Thursday, accusing Nexstar of demanding “the largest fee increase AT&T and DIRECTV has ever been presented in negotiations like these.”

A news release sent Thursday afternoon by AT&T, which also owns DirecTV, says that Nexstar was “demanding to roughly double its fees” and that Nexstar’s earlier assertion that it offered AT&T an unconditional 30-day extension is “not true.” Instead, AT&T says the extension was “conditioned on its rates being retroactively applied.”

The carriage dispute — not all that uncommon between cable companies and station owners — first took the local CBS affiliate off the air on July 4 and affects more than 120 Nexstar stations across the country.

CBS affiliate WNCN, also known as CBS 17, was pulled from AT&T U-verse and DirecTV on Thursday after the cable company failed to reach a carriage deal with Nexstar, which owns the Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville station.

In 2017, AT&T/DirecTV dropped WRAL and Fox 50, both owned by Capitol Broadcasting, and the dispute lasted for almost three months before service was restored.

In its most recent news release, distributed on July 9, Nexstar says that it is continuing to negotiate “to establish a mutually agreeable contract with AT&T/DIRECTV.”

Nexstar also asserts that it has “offered AT&T/DIRECTV the same rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations with in 2019 to date.”

Nexstar: “A little more than a year after putting DIRECTV together with Time Warner, AT&T appears intent on using its new market power to prioritize its own content at the expense of consumers, and insisting on unreasonable and extreme terms that are inconsistent with the market. As measured by stock market capitalizations, AT&T is approximately 50 times larger than Nexstar.”

Meanwhile, it’s the viewers who lose out.

As we have previously noted, viewers can still get CBS programming with an over-the-air antenna, sold at big box stores such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target, and also from Amazon.

This could be your first step to cutting the cord. Pair it with a strong internet connection and a subscription to a streaming service such as YouTube TV or Hulu Live (there are many options now), and these carriage disputes will never disrupt another viewing of “Big Brother” ever again.

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Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and answers CuriousNC questions for readers.