With five months left in the year, 2019 has already set the record for the highest number of television blackouts in history, according to new data from the American Television Alliance (ATVA).
Why it matters: Increased disputes between TV networks and their distributors — mainly cable and satellite companies — over how much networks should charge distributors for the rights to air their content.
Driving the news: CBS said Saturday that AT&T dropped CBS-owned television networks from the channel lineups of millions of AT&T customers, including DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and AT&T U-verse TV customers, in markets all over the United States.
The big picture: These disputes, driven by a shrinking traditional TV advertising market, are leading to more programming blackouts for consumers, and are forcing some smaller, niche cable channels out of business altogether.
Some disputes last for months. Others never get resolved.
- HBO and Cinemax, for example, haven't been available to Dish or Dish-owned Sling TV customers since late last year.
- Dish and Disney nearly faced a big blackout this weekend, but the two parties were able to come to a last-minute extension, preventing several Disney-owned networks, like FX and National Geographic, from going dark.
What's next: Expect more blackouts as major programmers weigh whether to re-up distribution deals.
- Local broadcaster Nexstar stations have been dark on AT&T properties since July 4th, when the two companies announced they were unable to reach an agreement.
- Last week, 17 local broadcast stations in 12 markets owned by Meredith went dark for Dish customers.
Be smart: Regulators rarely intervene in these fights, even when they're asked to, because they believe these disputes are best left to the market.