Verizon Communications Inc. Fios video subscribers stand to lose access to local TEGNA Inc. stations and digital subchannels if the companies cannot reach a new retransmission-consent deal ahead of a Jan. 4 deadline.
In a content update on its website, Verizon FiOS states the contract now expires at 6 p.m. on Tuesday; it had been set to conclude at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2021, before being extended into the early days of 2022.
Most of the potentially affected Verizon Fios customers reside in the Washington, D.C., market served by TEGNA's WUSA, the CBS (US) affiliate. Other stations that could possibly go dark if a new deal is not reached in time are WVEC, the ABC (US) affiliate serving Norfolk, Va.; WGRZ, the NBC (US) affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y.; and WPMT and WTIC, the FOX (US) affiliates in Harrisburg, Pa., and Hartford, Conn., respectively.
After failing to come to terms on a new retrans pact at the close of 2018 that resulted in a short blackout, the parties inked a renewal pact during the first few days of 2019, restoring the stations and their commercial relationship.
Pay TV operators pay retrans fees to broadcasters in order to carry their local station signals.
A TEGNA spokeswoman said Jan. 3 that the company is "working hard to reach a fair, market-based agreement with Verizon based on the competitive terms we've used to reach deals with other major providers."
For its part, Verizon said TEGNA has "proposed unreasonable price increases," beginning with a near 50% increase. The telco, which pointed out that TEGNA has removed its stations from other video providers amid retrans disputes, remains committed to giving customers the ability to watch these channels, but "simply cannot agree" to the demands for such price hikes.
Since Oct. 8, 2021, TEGNA stations have been blacked out on DISH Network Corp. in a retrans disconnect affecting 3.4 million customers in 51 markets and a total of 63 local TV stations. DISH subsequently filed a complaint against TEGNA, claiming it violated the Federal Communications Commission's good faith negotiating rules. TEGNA followed by issuing its own cross-complaint.