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Local network affiliates go dark for ABQ’s DirecTV viewers

Having trouble finding your local network affiliates on DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse? You’re not alone.

AT&T DirecTV customers no longer have access to local affiliate programming from several major networks due to an ongoing contract dispute with Nexstar.

Nexstar’s ownership includes Albuquerque’s CBS affiliate, KRQE, and Fox New Mexico, which means thousands of local TVs are no longer showing any CBS shows – including the local KRQE newscasts and the Women’s World Cup final this Sunday.

The blackout went into effect July 4.

Texas-based Nexstar – which owns, operates, programs or provides sales and other services to 174 full-power television stations reaching 39% of U.S. households – says that it offered DirecTV an agreement to keep the channels on its services for a rate comparable to that offered to other large distributors.

Nexstar said it has been “negotiating in good faith” and that DirecTV “misled” the broadcasting conglomerate as the deadline for negotiations passed.

“DIRECTV/AT&T did not accept Nexstar’s offer for an extension which would have allowed viewers in the affected markets to view their favorite network shows, special events, sports, local news and other programming on the Fourth of July and until such time as a new agreement can be reached,” Nexstar said in a statement.

AT&T released a statement placing the blame on the broadcasting giant, saying it was Nexstar that ultimately made the decision to remove the stations from its lineup offered to customers.

“The four major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) have together lost about half their primetime audience over the past few years,” AT&T said in a statement, “Despite this, Nexstar is demanding the largest increase that AT&T has ever seen from any content provider.”

KRQE general manager Bill Anderson did not respond to Journal messages Friday afternoon, but the station has alerted viewers to the DirecTV issue through its website and Facebook page.

“No other cable or satellite company is affected; only DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse customers have had their favorite news, comedies, dramas and sports taken away,” the KRQE website says, urging viewers to call DirecTV or even switch to a different provider.

KRQE has been scrolling information across the bottom of its screen about the dispute and urging viewers to call DirecTV.

As of late Friday, when a DirectTV subscriber turned to KRQE or Fox New Mexico, they would hear music and see a screen with a message from DirecTV: “The owner of this station has removed it from your lineup despite our request to keep it available to you.”

The message said DirecTV was working behind the scenes to get the matter resolved and invited viewers to go to TVPromise.com for more information.

That website from DirecTV told viewers it offered Nexstar more money to keep their stations available, but Nexstar said no and chose to remove them instead. “By doing so, Nexstar has put you in the center of its negotiations,” the message said.

CBS, with the “Big Bang Theory” and the “NCIS” crime shows, had the most-watched prime time lineup this past year, according to media reports. And the Women’s World Cup games on Fox have attracted millions of viewers, with the semifinal game between the USA and England drawing more than 7 million. The final between the U.S. and the Netherlands on Sunday is expected to be another ratings bonanza.

This isn’t the first time AT&T has dropped programming from its lineup due to disputes over contracts. In fact, it has become fairly common for the nation’s largest pay TV provider, which has 24.5 million subscribers.

At the end of April, A+E Networks Group accused AT&T of engaging in “anti-competitive behavior” during a contract negotiation standoff that almost saw channels like History Channel and AMC blacked out for DirecTV customers.

Similarly, Nexstar also claimed in its statements this week that AT&T was leveraging its market power to “prioritize its own content at the expense of consumers.”

Both distributors have said they are open to negotiations despite their public disagreement amidst contract talks.

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