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WFAA could go dark for U-verse/DirecTV subscribers

The cast of “Modern Family” ponders life without being able to watch WFAA/8.
The cast of “Modern Family” ponders life without being able to watch WFAA/8. ABC

Goodbye Good Morning America, Modern Family and Pete Delkus.

If cable/satellite provider AT&T U-verse/DirecTV and WFAA/Channel 8 don’t come to a new agreement by 11 p.m. Thursday, North Texans could have the plug pulled on some of their favorite shows.

The reason? AT&T U-verse/DirecTV and Tegna, WFAA’s parent company, can’t come to an agreement over “carriage fees.” This refers to the amount of money a carrier, such as U-verse, pays to a broadcaster for the right to air its programs.

On its site, WFAA says that AT&T is the one being stubborn and recalcitrant. “WFAA has agreements in place with all of the video providers in our area, including DISH and Charter. In fact, we just recently reached a multi-year deal with DISH and over the past several years, we have successfully reached agreements with distributors all across the country.

“Unfortunately, so far DIRECTV/AT&T U-verse has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us — even though the terms being offered are fundamentally the same as those that just allowed us to reach a deal with DISH.”

Naturally, DirecTV has the other side on its site.

“DirecTV wants to make sure you can always access any local stations serving your community and each of the ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX local affiliates,” they say. “When contract disputes arise over station owners’ unnecessary increases in what you should pay for these free over-the-air stations, DirecTV will never remove them from your lineup. Period. Station owners may try to avoid their responsibilities to you, but make no mistake: the station owners are the only ones who can decide to take away your local stations.

“Fewer people watch shows on local stations than ever before, but broadcasters continue to demand everyone pay more to get the few shows they do watch. DIRECTV must have their permission to broadcast their programming, so if stations can’t get whatever they want, they deliberately sideline their signal so nobody can see anything.”

AT&T has recently settled high-profile carriage deals with Tribune-owned stations and WGN America. According to Variety, “The Tribune pact underscores that AT&T intends to use the combined heft of DirecTV and U-verse’s subscriber base in negotiations with programmers.”

DirecTV has about 20.4 million subscribers in the U.S. while U-verse has roughly 5.9 million.

This potential disruption follows on the heels of a recent blackout of WFAA for subscribers to DISH because of a breakdown in negotiations. However, these stalemates are generally settled right before or not long after the deadline.

It is still possible to watch WFAA, just not through U-verse or DirecTV. It’s available free over-the-air and through such providers as DISH, Charter, Verizon FIOS, Time Warner Cable and Suddenlink, if they service your area.

Since WFAA is the North Texas ABC affiliate, many ABC network shows stream at abc.com/watch-live.

WFAA is a content partner with the Star-Telegram.

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