If you are a DIRECTV NOW customer, or for that matter DIRECTV or U-verse, and CBS goes dark this weekend, don't be too surprised.
Both AT&T and CBS have confirmed they are in the process of renegotiating terms and by the looks of it, those terms are not going so well.
The first thing to be aware of is that this does not affect all AT&T video customers across the U.S. Instead, the dropping of any and all CBS-owned stations will mostly apply to viewers in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Tampa.
Secondly, if the blackout does go ahead then it will begin on July 19 at 11:00 PM, PT.
AT&T says "only 14 local CBS stations" are affected by this and suggests if a blackout happens it will be the fault of CBS. AT&T has opted to not really go into any further detail on this point and simply states "CBS put you into the middle of negotiations."
As to be expected CBS sees things very differently. CBS states AT&T "continues to propose unfair terms well below those agreed to by its competitors" and indicates that if CBS does not agree to those terms it will be AT&T who drops CBS from its lineup.
Of the two, CBS is certainly the more vocal considering its announcement goes on to draw on AT&T's recent history of carriage disputes as evidence that this is now common behavior for the owner of DIRECT, DIRECTV NOW and U-verse.
CBS specifically stated how it has become routine for AT&T to be willing "to deprive its customers of valuable content" and how this has already resulted in "popular channels being removed from their service."
Although this will affect AT&T customers across the DIRECTV board as well as U-verse, DIRECTV NOW will be further affected as CBS has confirmed the blackout will apply to CBS programming in general, and nationwide, including access to The CW.
AT&T has certainly had its fair share of contract negotiations of late and you don't even have to go back that far to see the last as that too is still ongoing. AT&T is simultaneously going through an almost identical dispute with Nexstar. Again, AT&T and Nexstar attribute the blame towards each other.
In the U.S. Nexstar is the exclusive carrier for a variety of local stations, including ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates.
As was the case when the Nexstar dispute first surfaced, both AT&T and CBS state they are hoping to reach an agreement in time and to avoid CBS-owned channels being dropped. It seems CBS is particularly keen on avoiding this outcome as it has taken further action by updating its dedicated keepCBS website in a bid to increase public awareness. This is reminiscent of the high profile approach Viacom took when it too fell victim to an AT&T dispute this year.
In that case, Viacom's increased awareness appeared to work as in spite of AT&T making it clear it no longer saw value in Viacom channels being a part of its new DIRECTV NOW lineup, AT&T did relent and agreed to continue providing DIRECTV NOW subscribers with access to Viacom's channels.
Albeit, not all of them.