Some 6.5 million AT&T customers woke up this morning to discover they could no longer watch CBS, the country’s most popular broadcast network, thanks to yet another pay-TV carriage dispute. The current contract between the two companies expired early this morning, and the blackout affects customers who use DirecTV and AT&T U-verse systems. Judging by the flurry of angry comments on Twitter, viewers are not happy.
As is usually the case, both companies are blaming each other for the disruption, with CBS telling viewers it was dropped by DirecTV, and AT&T saying CBS removed its content. “This is completely CBS’s decision,” the company said on its dedicated web page for the blackout.
One point of contention appears to be the re-transmission consent fees CBS charges for its content. Although CBS is a broadcast network, pay-TV companies still have to pay to carry its content, and those fees in general have been rising significantly as networks seek out pricier content in an environment where advertising revenue is harder to come by.
Either way, this is one of those things that makes everyone hate the pay-TV industry: Giant companies bicker over who did or didn’t do what and innocent 60 Minutes fans get caught in the middle.
The good news is, if you’re an AT&T customer who wants to watch CBS while this nasty dispute is playing out, you have a few options. I’ve rounded them up below:
- Locast: This newish service lets you live-stream broadcast networks over the internet for free. Typically, this type of service would be sued out of existence (ask Aereo), but the hook here is that Locast is a nonprofit. The downside? Locast is only available in select cities. Find it here.
- Streaming services: A number of stand-alone streaming services offer CBS as part of a bundle. If you’re angry at CBS and don’t want to sign up for its All Access service, you could also try Hulu With Live TV, YouTube TV, or FuboTV. A lot of those services are offering a free week, meaning you might be able to cancel and pay nothing if the dispute lasts less than a week.
- Over-the-air antenna: Lest we forget, CBS’s broadcasting signal is already free to access over the air. Carriage disputes like this one are probably one of the reasons more and more viewers are choosing over-the-air antennas and ditching cable or satellite bundles altogether. You can do the same!