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AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV may drop WSB-TV January 1, 2017

This was posted Thurday, December 29, 2016 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Channel 2 WSB-TV, the local ABC affiliate, has not been able to close a new deal with AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV. If a contract is not signed by 3 a.m. EST on January 1, 2017, the station may be blocked for metro Atlanta subscribers of those two services.

[UPDATE at 11:13 a.m. January 1. A deal was not finalized by the deadline so WSB-TV is not available as of now on AT&T U-Verse or DirecTV. By 7 p.m. EST on January 1, the two sides had come to an agreement and service returned that evening.]

Tim McVay, Vice President and General Manager for Channel 2 WSB-TV, issued the following statement:

"I am disappointed that my company and AT&T appear to be reaching an impasse that could lead to a disruption in Channel 2 WSB-TV’s service for AT&T U-Verse and DIRECTV subscribers.  In just the past few weeks, we have reached agreement with some of the largest video distributors in the country.  At this point, every distributor besides AT&T/DIRECTV has reached a long-term agreement to continue carrying Channel 2 WSB-TV.  AT&T/DIRECTV is the lone holdout.

We are only asking that AT&T/DIRECTV offer a fair deal that adequately values Channel 2’s award-winning news, sports, entertainment, weather and traffic programming. The fees cable and satellite companies pay us fund these important local services.  Accepting unreasonable fees from AT&T/DIRECTV would lead to less local news, less local sports, less local severe weather coverage, and less community involvement by Channel 2 WSB-TV."

Here is the response from AT&T:

"We want to keep WSB in our DIRECTV and U-verse customers’ local lineups but its owner, Cox Broadcasting, is threatening to block the station from reaching those homes unless they receive a significant increase in fees – just to allow the same families to keep watching shows that remain available for free over-the-air on channel 2 and that ABC typically streams for free at and to fans using the WatchABC app. Cox has suspended its stations briefly from other TV providers’ customers before, so we appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to resolve this matter quickly and reasonably.”

WSB is found on Channel 1002 on AT&T U-Verse and Channel 2 on DirecTV.

If the station goes black, customers of these services will miss "America's Funniest Home Videos," "The Bachelor" preview, "To Tell the Truth" and "Conviction" on Sunday. Luckily for football fans, there are no games scheduled on WSB-TV Sunday afternoon.

If the dispute lasts a few more days, viewers won't be able to see the season premiere of "The Bachelor" Monday, new episodes of sitcoms "The Middle," "American Housewife," "Fresh Off the Boat" and "The Real O'Neals" Tuesday and sitcoms "The Goldbergs," "Speechless," "Modern Family" and "black-ish" on Wednesday.

This will not impact users of other services such as Charter, Dish and Xfinity. And you can always use the free over-the-air broadcast option with the proper antenna.

Disputes like this happen every so often between cable and satellite operators and TV networks. It's difficult from the outside to discern who is on stronger footing via each side's public statements since we don't know the details of the financial dispute itself. The longest local impasse was over some Braves games on Dish Network on Fox Sports networks. That one lasted a whopping three years.

Back in early 2014, WSB-TV had a dispute with Charter that caused the station to go dark on that service for less than a day.

WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are both part of Cox Media Group. 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.