Fans of Wheel of Fortune, NCIS, and a popular local meteorologist are in a tizzy due to a blackout of TV stations across the U.S., including KHOU in Houston, WFAA in Dallas, KVUE in Austin, and KENS in San Antonio.
The blackout began at 7 pm December 1, following a dispute between between AT&T/DirecTV and Tegna, a media company that owns 64 stations in 51 markets across the U.S.
Viewers were treated to a screen that said, "We hoped to avoid any interruption of this channel. Unfortunately, we are still working with Tegna, the owner of this channel, to secure an agreement. We share your frustration and regret any inconvenience."
According to a statement from Tegna, their agreement with DirecTV and AT&T expired on November 30. They kept the lights on for another day before unleashing the blackout.
"Unfortunately, DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse have not come to agreements to keep our station available on their services," the statement said. "We have successfully negotiated multi-year deals with hundreds of cable and satellite providers across the country without disruptions to service."
"We are working on and remain committed to reaching a fair deal with DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse," the statement said. "While we remain hopeful that this will get resolved quickly, our viewers should know that our channel is available on other service providers in our community as well as many streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu Plus Live TV and fuboTV that offer instant access when viewers sign up. Viewers can watch our newscasts live on our station’s website, Roku and mobile apps."
According to AT&T, the blackout was out of their hands.
"We're working to return the Tegna stations to our lineups as soon as possible, but by law, Tegna has exclusive control over which homes are allowed to receive either ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or CW in certain cities, regardless of what provider they choose," AT&T said in a statement.
AT&T claims that Tegna is asking for unwarranted increases over their "already high fees."
Viewers were displeased that the blackout occurred during the pandemic.
"Doing this to senior citizens who are stuck in during a pandemic is disgraceful. I've just spent the last 1/2 hour trying to explain this to my Mom. Shameful timing," said one disgruntled tweeter.
Here in Houston, the loss means no national favorites such as NCIS, Wheel of Fortune, and CBS Sunday Morning. Locally, it means viewers will lose out on beloved meteorologist and TV personality, Chita Craft.
"Had my channel 11 go off tonight during prime time," one KHOU Facebook page commenter noted. "Unbelievable, I will drop Uverse if they don’t come around," wrote another. Still more complained of not being able to watch the Houston Texans on Sunday. (KHOU is the team's flagship TV station.)
Fans are floating options like a local-channel antenna or the Locast app for solutions.