Interview: NBC4 GM speaks to iHeart Radio’s WTVN about AT&T/DIRECTV blackout

Local 4 You

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — NBC4 WCMH-TV general manager Ken Freedman spoke about the status of AT&T/DIRECTV negotiations to Mark Blazor on WTVN on Monday.

AT&T U-verse and DIRECTV pulled NBC4 WCMH-TV from their lineup on July 4 at 1 a.m.  DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse did not accept a contract extension offer by Nexstar Media, parent company of NBC4 WCMH-TV for the right to continue to air your favorite news stories around the Columbus, Ohio area.

Nearly a week and a half after being pulled from the air, Freedman discussed the situation with Blazor in an interview on iHeart Radio’s WTVN.

“This happens from time to time with local channels,” Blazor said. “Can you shed some light on the how and the why something like this happens?”

“We take our responsibility of having news and information, sports, weather–we think of ourselves as first responders whether that’s tornadoes or floods, earthquakes–so it is very frustrating for us to not be able to do this,” explained Freedman. “Our parent company — we’re owned by a company called Nexstar Broadcasting — our parent company has never had an outage of this magnitude before. And we are in 100 markets in the country and 174 television stations in the country…We’ve negotiated hundreds and hundreds of these deals, and the market — I mean, companies like DIRECTV and AT&T, Charter Spectrum, Dish Network, WOW!, companies like that, have agreed that our prices represent a fair market value. But since AT&T bought DIRECTV some time ago, they’ve initiated hundreds of these outages. In fact, just a year and a half ago, in the fall of 2017, AT&T U-verse and DIRECTV took our competitive station in the market, WBNS 10-TV, off the air for 5 weeks.”

“We were negotiating in good faith, and we expected to reach a successful conclusion of that negotiation on July 3,” Freedman continued. “AT&T said you don’t have to notify your viewers–if we had known this was coming, we would have had a crawl on our news. We didn’t do it, because AT&T said to us we were going to reach a successful conclusion, and I guess when it got down to the 11th hour when we didn’t, they unilaterally pulled the plug on our station and some 170 other television stations that Nexstar owns across the country. Around the time that happened, there was severe weather — a hurricane approaching Hawaii, significant earthquakes in California that affected California and Nevada, we’ve also had the hurricane and tropical storm in Louisiana, so these are our sister stations around the country that are not able to report and tell people what’s going on in their community, so this was not our choice to do that.”

“Most people don’t realize because our cable bills are so difficult to read…but when you look at your cable channels, and there’s hundreds of them–you’re actually paying for all of those channels, you just don’t realize it, it’s buried in your bill. You don’t watch most of that stuff that comes into your house. The average household watches 10 or 11 channels with regularity. Now, the 10 or 11 that you watch may be different than the 10 or 11 channels that I or someone else watches. But the reality is, that in those 10 or 11 channels, stations like channel 4 or channel 10 or channel 6 are in that group of 10 or 11 channels that are being watched, so it’s really because of our channels that the cable companies were able to build their business and have a successful product.”

“So at the end of the day…if you’re on DIRECTV or AT&T U-verse and you’re not getting NBC4, the easiest thing you can do is go out and get an HD antenna, but that doesn’t solve the original problem with the carrier?” Blazor asked.

“There are alternatives, Charter Spectrum, Dish, WOW–those are all alternatives,” Freedman said. “I would tell people to call AT&T [at 855-937-9469] and tell them to put their channel 4 back on in Columbus, Ohio….I would tell you this, too. When you think about it, we have an enormous amount of journalists that work in our building. The reason that newspapers around the country are having a hard time, is because there is so much diversity of media out there, and it costs a lot for us to do Football Friday Nites every week in the fall, it costs a lot for us to have dedicated meteorologists and journalists doing newscasts–we produce more local content every day than any station in the market, and really all we’re asking AT&T and DIRECTV for is a fair market value for our product that they pass through and make a profit on.”

Click here to listen to the full interview on the Mark Blazor Show.

To stay updated on the latest with the negotiations, visit nbc4i.com/keepnbc4

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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