LEWISTON, ID – AT&T U-verse, DIRECTV and AT&T TV NOW subscribers in 86 markets could be just a few days away from losing access to 136 local television stations, including Lewiston's KLEW-TV, a CBS affiliate.
In a statement, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., owner of KLEW-TV, says the issue is AT&T’s unwillingness to negotiate fair market carriage licenses. The dispute is over what AT&T pays for the right to carry the signal. The same signal that is available for free, over-the-air, to anyone with an antenna in KLEW's coverage area.
Carriage disputes can involve programming blackouts, or the threat of a blackout. A Sinclair statement says the previous carriage agreement between AT&T and Sinclair was set to expire in August, and Sinclair provided a five-week extension in an "attempt to avoid harm to consumers." The current extension remains in effect through Friday at 2:00 p.m. PDT.
On their website, AT&T says, "We're disappointed that Sinclair has put you in the middle of its negotiations, and is threatening to pull its stations from consumers in an attempt to drive up the fees we pay to carry its broadcast channels." According to AT&T, higher programming fees are the single greatest contributor to rising customer bills.
KLEW is regularly running an announcement on the air saying viewers could soon lose assess to their favorite shows, and encouraging viewers to lodge complaints with AT&T. AT&T says channel owners use service blackouts as a strategy to get more money for the same programs. In KLEW's case, the same CBS network programs are also available on Spokane's KREM-TV.
"Our goal is always to deliver the content our customers want at a value that also makes sense to them. We’ll continue to fight for that here and appreciate their patience while we work this matter out with Sinclair," says AT&T.