A few days before the expiration of a carriage deal with DirecTV, Fox Corp. is warning viewers of its networks about a potential blackout as the companies continue to negotiate.
Fox today began airing a crawl across the bottom of the screen on networks including FS1, the Big Ten Network and Fox News. The message advised viewers of the potential outage. Ahead of a December 2 deadline at midnight PT, the companies are continuing to hold active talks.
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DirecTV is among the largest pay-TV operators, with more than 13 million U.S. households as of the third quarter. The company is owned by AT&T and private equity firm TPG.
In a statement, Fox said it “remains committed to reaching a fair agreement with DirecTV for the continued distribution of our networks. Despite our best efforts for months, we regret that DirecTV continues to demand unprecedented special treatment that represents a wholesale change to our long-standing relationship and is out of step with marketplace terms.”
An impasse could affect high-profile programming like the Big Ten championship game, World Cup soccer and the NFL. Even though Fox is using multiple networks in its portfolio to alert viewers to the deadline, Fox News Channel is not part of this renewal, but the Fox broadcast network, FS1, FS2, the Big Ten Network and local Fox affiliates are all facing a reup.
In a statement in response to the Fox warning, DirecTV said the outcome of the situation “depends solely on Fox” and said it is “working hard to reach an agreement,” adding that it has “an excellent track record with Fox.” DirecTV accused its negotiating partner of deploying “the same old, tired programmer scare tactics.”
Fox has issued similar warnings ahead of deadlines with Optimum parent Altice USA, Roku and other distributors, only to renew without a blackout.
As a publicly traded company, Fox has repeatedly reminded investors that it is in a period of renewals of almost all of its pay-TV deals, describing it as a tailwind given the continued popularity of much of its programming.
Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said during the company’s quarterly earnings call earlier this month that the company is at the start of what he called a “massive three year cycle” of renewals. Despite pressure on programmers given ratings declines and accelerating cord-cutting, Fox has maintained it will stay aggressive in its dealings with distributors.
“Having completed the first round of those renewals, I have to say we are extremely pleased with the outcome of those renewals because our distribution partners do value what we bring to the bundle and our commitment to the bundle,” Murdoch said. “Those renewals have gone very well and have met every expectation we’ve had for them.”
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