Spirit, AT&T Trade Offers but Deal Remains Elusive

Stations remain off U-verse, DirecTV in several markets

American Spirit stations continue to be off AT&T U-Verse and its co-owned DirecTV distribution platforms in an ongoing carriage dispute, but there was some movement over the weekend.

As the Carolina Panthers NFL playoff game approached Sunday, Jan. 7 (the Panthers lost to the New Orleans Saints 31-26), American Spirit Media, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., issued a press release saying that attempts to negotiate had gone unanswered in recent weeks but that it had gotten an offer from AT&T on Jan. 5, then countered with its own on Jan. 6, but had not heard back.

But late in the day Jan. 6, the company said AT&T had offered its own counter.

But as of Monday (Jan. 8), the stations were still advising viewers of the ongoing impasse, saying: "This disruption in service was the last thing we wanted…in fact, our parent company offered extensions to DirecTV and AT&T U-verse with the intention of getting a deal done without any impact on viewers like you....But it’s a little like David and Goliath. Our parent company wants to get a deal done, but we’re part of a small group of just seven local television stations up against a huge multimedia conglomerate. DirecTV and AT&T U-verse just seems unwilling to negotiate fairly with smaller station groups like ours."

The DirecTV impasse affects WUPV Richmond, Va.; WDBD Jackson, Miss.; WUPW Toledo, Ohio; WXTX Columbus, Ga.; WSFX Cape Fear, N.C.;, KAUZ Wichita Falls, Texas; and KVHP, Lake Charles, La. The AT&T impasse affects WDBD, WXTX, WUPW and WSFX.

"We have always wanted to keep providing American Spirit Media’s local stations and believe there is absolutely no public interest served by American Spirit’s ongoing blackout of NFL fans or the locally owned sports bars and restaurants who benefit from serving them," AT&T said in a statement. "We continue to remain available, just as we have always been, to negotiate with American Spirit or any of its representatives in the hope that American Spirit will consent to return its stations as soon as possible.”

 The protracted retrans fight dates from Sept. 21, when the stations failed to reach a retrans deal for the stations.