AT&T is looking to make sure local viewers have access to emergency weather information, and at the same time remove an issue raised by a U.S. senator from weather-plagued Louisiana related to an ongoing carriage impasse with Nexstar.
Nexstar stations have been off AT&T's DirecTV and U-Verse platforms since last week. Nexstar has said AT&T refused its offer of extended carriage during negotiations, but AT&T said that was conditioned on retractively applying the roughly double the rates it was asking for carriage of its stations.
In the wake of the blackout, a number of legislators, including Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), called for the companies to resolve their dispute and restore the channels. Kennedy said he was particularly concerned that their failure to reach an agreement was denying Louisiana families access to "up-to-date" weather info in the event that the tropical depression in the Gulf revs up.
He urged AT&T to accept the short-term extension for that reason.
AT&T said Thursday that, while it was continuing to negotiate in good faith--as the FCC requires--it would address the weather concerns in another way.
"[W]e are launching a dedicated emergency weather information channel similar to ones we have done in the past to enable homes throughout the Gulf region to keep up to date on developing hurricane conditions there," the company said. "These emergency information services will feature local news coverage from affected cities, including ones where Nexstar is currently withholding stations, and allow customers to follow any emergency weather from city to city as conditions may progress."
The channel will feature news from other local stations in the affected areas. AT&T also pointed out that subs have access to national services including Weather Channel, AccuWeather, CNN and Fox News.
It was unclear how the negotiations were progressing, but AT&T signaled they were scheduled to talk again Friday (July 12).