UPDATE: CBS and AT&T reached an agreement on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.
As of Saturday morning, AT&T U-verse or DirecTV customers in Miami and other cities nationwide can no longer watch CBS channels or CBS affiliates on their televisions — at least not in the traditional way.
That’s because a dispute between CBS Corporation and AT&T over the licensing fees the latter pays to the network in order to broadcast its signal entered the blackout phase at 2 a.m..
The deadline to reach an agreement between the two entities came and went, so the CBS signal went black for millions of AT&T/DirecTV customers in 17 cities.
Cities under CBS blackout
Miami, home to Miami Herald news partner CBS4, is one of the affected cities. Also in blackout: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
The dispute means 117 CBS stations and affiliates on DirecTV Now also are affected by the blackout until the sides resolve their dispute.
Additionally, CBS Sports Network has been dropped nationally from DirecTV and DirecTV NOW, and Smithsonian Channel has been similarly removed from DirecTV.
What is the dispute about?
Both sides blame the other after months of negotiations failed to resolve the dispute.
“CBS is simply looking to receive fair value for its popular programming and is proposing economic terms similar to those that AT&T’s competitors have accepted in hundreds of our recent distribution agreements,” CBS said in a statement Saturday morning.
The DirecTV deal that expired was signed in 2012. According to CBS, the amount “is nowhere close to today’s fair market terms for CBS content — to which AT&T’s competitors have repeatedly agreed.”
CBS estimates it has 240 million viewers on the affected platforms.
AT&T disputes CBS’ position.
On Saturday, Kelly Starling, who handles AT&T’ media relations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands sent an email calling CBS “a repeat blackout offender” and maintains it did all it could to avoid the blackout.
“CBS has put our Miami and Fort Lauderdale customers into the middle of its negotiations by pulling WFOR-CBS and WBFS-MNT from their local lineups,” Starling said in the email.
Some customers are pushing back on social media.
“This blackout is over a dollar increase each month for each AT&T subscriber,” read one post on Twitter. “CBS had been paid an average of a little over $2 for each AT&T subscriber every month, and it is now seeking a fee in the range of $3.”
“CBS had been paid an average of a little over $2 for each AT&T subscriber every month, and it is now seeking a fee in the range of $3, three people familiar with the matter said,” the Times reported. These people spoke anonymously because the contract negotiations are considered private, the Times said.
How to watch CBS in the meantime
CBS4 entertainment reporter Lisa Petrillo posted CBS’ position on her Facebook page and said she is “praying this gets resolved soon.” Petrillo suggested viewers head over to CBS All Access to stream their favorites on the network.
That’s one recourse in time being.
So what else can fans of LeBron James’ “Million Dollar Mile,” “Hawaii Five-O” summer reruns or Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” do?
▪ Watch CBS broadcast content free over the air on channels 4 and 33 in South Florida.
▪ Stream local broadcast content at the WFOR-CBS website at miami.cbslocal.com.
▪ Stream national broadcast shows at cbs.com or using the CBS mobile app.
▪ AT&T offers a product called Local Channel Connector “that can put WFOR-CBS and WBFS-MNT into the program guides of many DirecTV customers with Genie receivers,” Starling said.