Some local viewers of WTVC NewsChannel 9 and FOX Chattanooga may need to dust off the rabbit ears Friday evening if they want to keep watching.
Sinclair Broadcast Group has warned AT&T DirecTV, AT&T TV Now and U-verse customers they could lose access to some local TV stations if the two communications giants can't make a deal on carriage rates by 5 p.m. Friday.
Sinclair is encouraging customers to let AT&T know how they feel about the potential outage by calling and emailing the company to share their concerns. WTVC has also shared advice on how viewers can continue to watch the ABC broadcast affiliate if the companies can't make a deal, including going old-school with rabbit ears to pick up over-the-air signal for the local channels.
"AT&T ... seems intent on using its tremendous market power to dictate to viewers which programming from other content providers they can receive, even as they continue to acquire content providers and push their own content to viewers," said David Gibber, senior vice president and general counsel for Sinclair, in a written statement from the company.
AT&T spokesperson Ann Elsas, however, countered that Sinclair "routinely threatens or shuts off access to its combination of local and national network content to accomplish one goal: drive up what it collects for content that is offered free over the air."
"AT&T will continue to negotiate in good faith to keep Sinclair's channels in our customers' lineups," Elsas said in a written statement.
Sinclair owns, operates, or provides services to 191 television stations in 89 markets, including WTVC NewsChannel 9 and FOX Chattanooga. AT&T provides more than 100 million U.S. consumers with entertainment and communications across TV, mobile and broadband services.
The outage could hit during the fall launch of prime-time programming, as well as interrupting major sports programming including NFL football and and the start of the NBA and NHL seasons.
"We've heard from over 10,000 residents of Tennessee as part of the over quarter million AT&T customers who have reached out to us in the past five days," said Rob Ford, a Sinclair spokesman.
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