Sen. Richard Blumenthal pushes AT&T and Nexstar to strike a deal, restore channels for DirecTV, U-verse


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Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal is urging AT&T and Nexstar to return to the negotiating table and restore access to more than 120 Nexstar stations that were blacked out last week.

The Nexstar stations in 97 markets across the nation, including ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC affiliate stations, went dark for DirecTV and AT&T U-verse subscribers after Nexstar and AT&T were unable to reach an agreement.

The blackout began at 11:59 p.m. local time July 3 and the stations were still dark Monday night.

Blumenthal wrote a July 5 letter to AT&T and Nexstar officials, which was posted on Nexstar’s website Monday. He mentions two Connecticut Nexstar stations.

“While I take no definitive position supporting either side, I believe that the current denial of service to Connecticut families is unfair and unnecessary,” Blumenthal wrote. “I strongly urge you to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement – and immediately provide carriage of WTNH and WCTX through at least August 2, 2019 as requested by Nexstar.”

July 4th outage: Nexstar stations blacked out on AT&T DirecTV and U-verse amid contract dispute

Blumenthal said an extension would “allow parties sufficient time to come to an agreement without barring AT&T/DirecTV consumers from viewing their local news coverage.”

“This cutoff seems to have the sole purpose of enhancing DirecTV bargaining leverage – with severe harm to Connecticut consumers,” Blumenthal wrote, adding that “DirecTV commit to refund all affected subscribers a portion of their monthly bills commensurate” with local channels’ value.

What AT&T and Nexstar say

Both sides said in competing statements that each blame the other for the blackout.

AT&T said in its statement posted at that Nexstar removed its channels “even though we offered Nexstar more money to keep them available to you. Nexstar simply said no and elected to remove them from your lineups instead, putting you in the middle of its negotiations.”

According to Nexstar, AT&T “unilaterally dropped the network and local community programming” and refused to extend the existing distribution agreement to Aug. 2.

In a new statement Monday, Nexstar said it was “reiterating its offer of an unconditional extension of the existing distribution agreement for 30 days to restore the blacked-out programming to viewers and allow the parties to reach a new agreement.”

How to watch your shows

Disputes between content providers and cable and satellite providers are common as companies try to negotiate new deals. Often times agreements are reached before blacking out channels.

AT&T says subscribers who lost access have options.

“Most of these stations can be viewed over the air or online at the station websites. You should be able to find station websites by searching online for the name of the local station,” AT&T said noting most major networks stream primetime series on websites and apps.

Nexstar offered additional options in its statement: “Viewers affected by the loss of service from DIRECTV have several alternatives to continue watching their favorite shows including local cable providers, DISH, over-the-air, certain subscription streaming television services, and services such as Verizon’s FIOS.”

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

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