Nexstar’s ties to Mission and White Knight Broadcasting once again in question
In the latest retrans battle, we have one company whose Grand Rapids station recently was involved in a controversy over giving voice to ‘the other side’ during Pride month vs. one who shoved commercials down our throats last fall featuring Real Housewives cast members, a show known for rewarding bad behavior and one version of the show fueling racial stereotypes – not to mention their latest annoying ad campaign featuring the old guy from that HBO show.
It’s kind of like watching a Cardinals-Mets game if you’re a Cubs fan and figuring out who to root for. But that’s what we have as Nexstar and DirecTV are in cahoots with one another racing to see who will raise your satellite bill last. On Sunday, Nexstar pulled their signals from DirecTV and U-Verse systems nationwide, including WGN-TV in Chicago and cable news network NewsNation.
The move is more disgusting considering Nexstar pulled the signals during the NASCAR Chicago Race on the company’s NBC affiliates, including WCMH Columbus, Oh. and WFLA-TV Tampa, right in the middle of the contest.
This is the second time in a little over six months Nexstar have threatened a cable or satellite operator with demands. In December, Nexstar pulled the same tactic with Comcast subscribers, the nation’s biggest cable provider. Similar to what they did then, Nexstar blitzed their 150+ local stations with promos and putting a large red flag banner on the top of their station websites and launching web pages Thursday filled with a lot of cut-and-paste pro-Nexstar propaganda.
“DirecTV and Nexstar were unable to reach a new distribution agreement allowing the DirecTV the right to continue airing the highly-rated programming on Nexstar’s local stations. In addition, DirecTV rejected Nexstar’s offer to extend the current distribution agreement to Oct. 31, 2023,” Nexstar said in a statement. The red flag banner on WGN’s website Sunday night stated it was DirecTV who pulled the station’s signal.
As I said in this space before in reality, only the company who owns the local station can pull their signal from a cable or satellite system. Also on the website, it refers to programming their viewers “pay for”, even though they can easily access their signal through an over-the-air antenna for free – so in essence, WGN and Nexstar are basically lying to their viewers, like they did when disputes came up with other providers.
WGN-TV is one of the most-watched stations in Chicago, led by their top-rated morning newscasts. Those distinctions could now be in jeopardy as the last time a local Chicago TV was pulled from DirecTV was in 2019 when WBBM-TV (under the then-ownership of CBS Corp.) saw their already low ratings drop 28 percent further as their parent company and DirecTV were involved in a similar dispute. 2019 was also the last time DirecTV and Nexstar were involved in a retrans dispute.
Once again, Nexstar’s involvement in two affiliate companies are part of the dispute. Pay TV providers claim White Knight Broadcasting (who owns three stations located in Texas and Louisiana) and the 29-station Mission Broadcasting chain – the latter owns WPIX New York and ABC affiliate WTVO in Rockford – are nothing but shell companies so Nexstar can get around the FCC’s ownership cap says most pay TV providers, which stands at 39 percent of coverage in the U.S. Mission stations have been off not only DirecTV stations for the last few months, but rival Dish as well.
The pay providers claim Nexstar runs the day-to-day operations of Mission and White Knight in these shared services agreements, making them basically a de facto owner, as DirecTV filed a complaint with the FCC Thursday night against Nexstar over these types of issues. However, Mission and White Knight handles retransmission consent negotiations by themselves with the exception of WPIX, which is handled by Nexstar. This explains why, until Sunday, WPIX was still available on DirecTV.
In Detroit, Mission is buying WADL from Adell from $75 million, but is being challenged by the American Television Alliance, a group made up of pay TV providers saying Nexstar would be in control.
Four days after Nexstar threated to pull all their signals off of Comcast, the company settled with Nexstar in a lawsuit they filed against them over unpaid retrans fees by Mission’s WPIX as Nexstar pulled their signal on December 3, but returned in a few days. Comcast and Nexstar cut a deal two weeks later and TV service wasn’t interrupted as DirecTV is suing for almost the same thing.
The last time WGN-TV was knocked off DirecTV was in April 2012 when then-owner Tribune Media got into a dispute with then-DirecTV owner AT&T, who now owns only 70 percent of the satellite service, with TPG owning the other 30 percent. Both came to a deal three days later, restoring signals. But judging by the look of things, it might take more than a few days for Nexstar and DirecTV to settle their beefs as there is a lot of complicated issues to sort out.
Full disclosure: This writer is a DirecTV subscriber.