AT&T Says CBS Leveraging All Access In Broadcast Negotiations

We have seen Godzilla VS King Ghidora, but before we catch Godzilla VS King Kong feast your eyes on a major fight between two other giants. CBS and AT&T. The two companies may be at odds due to an ongoing carriage negotiation between AT&T, which owns DirecTV, U-Verse and streaming service DirecTV Now among other things due to its merger with Time Warner.

The negotiations are part of a regular cycle between pay TV providers and affiliate groups that routinely lead to temporary blackouts of channels. We say affiliate groups because while it looks from the outside like CBS controls whether its shows are seen, “being the network and all” whether you can watch CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox in your home market actually depends on the local affiliate for the network. W… or K…. And at the moment AT&T is at a stalemate between itself and Nextar, which owns CBS stations across the country as well as CBS which owns Stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. You may have heard of those cities before as they represent most of the largest population centers in the country.

So now between the loss of Nexstar owned channels which actually can represent access to CBS, ABC or NBC  depending on the market see here, AT&T has a major problem on its hands as people count down to the start of the all important month of September when NFL and college football kick off and the new fall slate begins.

While broadcast networks outside of CBS are in sort of a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) scenario in these situations CBS is not. Why? A little program called CBS All-Access. The streaming service which has slowly grown to subscribers in the single digit millions (can normal folks like us imagine small millions) offers most subscribers a way to view their local CBS affiliates live. The service also gives users access to past episodes of its series including full season runs of many of its biggest hits, with a few movies thrown in.

In together CBS All-Access users would have to access the service through a streaming device like A Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV or Android TV unless they want to be tethered to a computer or wireless device. They could of course, but its hard to gather the family around an I-phone. Many smart TV’s also offer the CBS All Access App.

In the case of the directly network owned CBS stations AT&T has accused CBS of using the situation at hand to push the Streaming Service in Lue of actually negotiating an end to the quandary. The company that famously yanked HBO from rival Dish and its streaming service Sling TV now fears that CBS will call their bluff and just say “AT&T is greedy buy CBS from CBS instead”.

Whether people are willing to pay extra to CBS for a channel they should really be receiving as part of an extensive bundle will be a very interesting question. Some may even be able to solve their CBS and other network problem with a 60-100 dollar antenna. The issue at hand though goes to show us that the world of TV has changed drastically. CBS enjoys the Bennifits of TV deals with distributors but technically it is getting to a point where it does not need them. Hopefully for those not looking to jump in with a new service or get a TV attached device both companies put it all back in the box. If I’m Comcast or any regional provider I would watch this very closely.