Millions of DirecTV subscribers no longer have access to Newsmax programming after the AT&T-owned satellite giant and the conservative news network failed to reach a new carriage deal.
The official deadline passed at midnight on Tuesday. As a result, Newsmax’s programs went to a blackout for more than 13 million customers of the satellite service, as well as those using DirecTV Stream and fiber-based AT&T U-Verse.
DirecTV described the dispute as a financial one, accusing Newsmax of demanding a fee to broadcast programs that are available on free-streaming platforms.
“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” a DirecTV spokesperson said in a statement.
“Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free via NewsmaxTV.com, YouTube.com and on multiple streaming platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Google Play. We continually evaluate the most relevant programming to provide our customers and expect to fill this available channel with new content.”
Newsmax, on the other hand, claimed that the satellite provider’s decision wasn’t driven by a desire to cut cost, but a bias against conservative viewpoints.
“DirecTV pays cable license fees to all top 75 cable channels and to all 22 liberal news and information channels it carries. Almost all of these channels are paid hefty license fees significantly more than Newsmax was seeking,” the Manhattan-based company said in a statement on Wednesday, claiming that most of those channels have “much lower ratings” than Newsmax.
Citing the removal of conservative news outlet One America News (OAN) from the satellite platform last year, Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy decried the treatment as a “blatant act of political discrimination and censorship.”
“The most extreme liberal channels, even with tiny ratings, get fees from AT&T’s DirecTV, but Newsmax and OAN need to be deplatformed,” Ruddy said.
Newsmax also said it was “false” to claim that Newsmax is asking for a fee while still wanting to keep a free stream on other platforms. “No operator pays a fee while Newsmax streams free and DirecTV was fully aware the free stream will end this year,” the outlet clarified.
The failed negotiation comes after a group of 42 Republican members of Congress urged DirecTV to reconsider dropping Newsmax from its lineup, expressing concerns over DirecTV’s move to “de-platform Newsmax by denying it cable fees on a fair and equitable basis.”
The lawmakers also referenced the cancellation of OAN, a decision that came about a year after Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee specifically asked providers whether they planned to continue carrying programming for Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax—conservative networks that Democrats deemed “misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm.”
“Given the jurisdiction of the energy and commerce committee over your companies’ business interests, it is reasonable to assume you took this letter seriously and complied with these demands,” the lawmakers said in their letter to DirecTV and its corporate owners, AT&T and TPG Capital.
“If Newsmax is removed from DirecTV, in less than a year, House Republicans will have lost two of the three cable news channels that reach conservative voters on a platform that primarily serves conservative-leaning areas of the country,” they wrote.
DirecTV responded to the letter on Jan. 23, insisting that the company isn’t working to censor conservative voices.
“We are not trying to de-platform Newsmax,” it told the elected Republicans. “To the contrary, we want to continue our carriage of Newsmax on the same terms as at present, and we have made that clear to Newsmax.”
This is not the first time that Newsmax has had a dispute with DirecTV. The conservative channel had been dropped from the platform and its competitor, DISH, in 2016.
Newsmax at that time encouraged viewers to “call DISH and let them know you want Newsmax TV back.” Newsmax returned to both platforms in 2017.