Channels dark on AT&T U-verse over negotiations with Raycom

Some TV viewers across the Coast are missing out on March Madness games and more as Raycom Media and AT&T U-verse negotiate a new contract.

WLOX’s CBS and ABC channels have been dark since just before midnight March 16 for AT&T customers in Raycom’s 23 markets across the country.

Both companies blame the other for the blackout in statements to the media.

Raycom said AT&T started using channel blackouts during negotiations after AT&T acquired DirectTV in 2015. AT&T has been pushing customers to sign up for the satellite service, Raycom says, citing articles that describe how AT&T is trying to phase out U-Verse now that it has acquired the satellite company.

The owner of WLOX also says AT&T customers have been pushed to subscribe to the online streaming service DIRECTV NOW, which doesn’t typically carry local broadcast affiliates or local newscasts.

“When disgruntled AT&T U-Verse subscribers call to lodge a complaint, they are offered a subscription with DirecTV, the very same company as AT&T,” Raycom said in a statement.

“Maintaining our connection to our local communities is always the goal in our negotiations. Raycom Media offered 3 extensions through this negotiation process in an effort to continue our negotiations without affecting our viewers on the AT&T U-Verse system,” said Raycom President and CEO Pat LaPlatney.

AT&T maintains that Raycom is the one blocking the channels, saying AT&T has repeatedly asked “to allow our customers to watch while we work this business matter out privately.”

“Raycom is deliberately preventing WLOX from reaching their homes until Raycom receives a significant increase in fees even though the same people can still watch its shows for free over-the-air on channels 13 and 3 and, typically, at and or using the WatchABC and CBS apps.”

Lauren Walck: 228-896-2393, @laurenwalck