Fans of The Bachelorette and beloved local anchor Quita Culpepper are in a tizzy due to a blackout of TV stations across the U.S., including KVUE in Austin, WFAA in Dallas-Fort Worth, KHOU in Houston, and KENS in San Antonio.
The blackout began at 7 pm December 1, following a dispute between between AT&T/DirecTV and Tegna, a media company that owns 64 stations in 51 markets across the U.S.
Viewers were treated to a screen that said, "We hoped to avoid any interruption of this channel. Unfortunately, we are still working with Tegna, the owner of this channel, to secure an agreement. We share your frustration and regret any inconvenience."
According to a statement from Tegna, their agreement with DirecTV and AT&T expired on November 30. They kept the lights on for another day before unleashing the blackout.
"Unfortunately, DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse have not come to agreements to keep our station available on their services," the statement said. "We have successfully negotiated multi-year deals with hundreds of cable and satellite providers across the country without disruptions to service."
Here in Austin, this means a blackout of Culpepper, who anchors the 6 pm and 10 pm newscasts, and has been on the Austin airwaves for more than 20 years. It also means no Bachelorette, Blackish, or Good Morning America.
"We are working on and remain committed to reaching a fair deal with DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse," the statement said. "While we remain hopeful that this will get resolved quickly, our viewers should know that our channel is available on other service providers in our community as well as many streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu Plus Live TV and fuboTV that offer instant access when viewers sign up. Viewers can watch our newscasts live on our station’s website, Roku and mobile apps."
According to AT&T, the blackout was out of their hands.
"We're working to return the Tegna stations to our lineups as soon as possible, but by law, Tegna has exclusive control over which homes are allowed to receive either ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or CW in certain cities, regardless of what provider they choose," AT&T said in a statement.
AT&T claims that Tegna is asking for unwarranted increases over their "already high fees."
Viewers were displeased that the blackout occurred during the pandemic.
"Doing this to senior citizens who are stuck in during a pandemic is disgraceful. I've just spent the last 1/2 hour trying to explain this to my Mom. Shameful timing," said one disgruntled tweeter.
But none were hit harder than fans of The Bachelorette, for whom the timing could not have been worse. Tayshia Adams, after all, is in the midst of her journey to find love.
"Sir or ma'am or non binary friend, please negotiate faster I wanna watch The Bachelorette," said one.
Another pulled the first responder card: "Thanks to you guys, my wife who is a first responder and had a day off couldn't relax and watch @BacheloretteABC on @wfaa. We have @DIRECTV so we were blind sided. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves, pulling this crap during this pandemic."
"Being stuck at home having Covid and not being able to watch @BacheloretteABC is unacceptable!" said another. "How can you two not work out your differences before prime time tv? Thanks for ruining everyone’s night!"