By BOB MCKINNEY
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the situation with television service at our house — which I suppose is still called “cable.”
I told you how Nexstar Media Group, owner of the Nashville ABC affiliate, is at an impasse with AT&T, which operates AT&T U-Verse as a provider of television, internet and land line services. As a result, U-Verse is not showing programming from said ABC affiliate. My understanding is the same is true for DirectTV, also owned by AT&T.
We have been with U-Verse for a few years now and overall it’s been satisfactory. We’ll have an interruption of service here and there, perhaps during a storm, but it is usually brief. I depend on Wi-Fi for working from home, which I do a good bit, and I have no complaints.
As I’ve told you, my wife graciously handles all the dealings with AT&T, including the negotiation of pricing. These companies are super competitive with each other, so when a service term is up for renewal, a passing reference to shopping around will usually result in a promotional special or something of the sort.
My cursory research indicates this current matter with AT&T affects the 171 stations (according to Wikipedia) owned or managed by Nexstar nationwide. Nexstar appears to own and manage stations affiliated with all of the major networks and some smaller ones, so in some markets, U-Verse and DirectTV customers might not be getting programming from NBC, CBS, Fox or any number of other networks.
At the end of my column two weeks ago, I predicted the dispute would be resolved by the beginning of the college football season. Folks are serious about their football watching, and ABC airs a fair amount of college games.
And with this affecting other network affiliates in other markets, it will have an impact on other networks’ coverage of college games, as well as NFL games. Surely AT&T realizes the potential customer loss.
But with only a week to go before college football is in full swing, and NFL following soon thereafter, I’m not so certain a resolution is close at hand.
On an AT&T website that has updates about the Nexstar matter, there is information about watching games on other channels “not impacted by current negotiations.”
This just in, AT&T: A U-Verse or DirectTV customer who is a fan of a team whose game is being aired on one of the Nexstar stations will not be satisfied with that suggestion. In other words, for example, Tennessee (insert your own favorite team here for this hypothetical) fans want to see the Vols. Watching a game in which the Vols are not playing will not placate those fans.
My wife made another call to AT&T about a week ago. She said the first person with whom she spoke was obviously reading from a script and had little new information to offer, so she asked to speak to someone at the next level.
The next-level person candidly told her he was not seeing an end in sight. When she mentioned considering a competitor, he said he understood, but reminded her it could just as easily happen with one of the other providers.
Yeah, maybe, but right now it’s not, and football season is upon us.
As I told you, my wife’s main beef has been that we are not getting what we are paying for. After expressing this to AT&T during her first call to them a few weeks ago, they conceded to a modest credit to our bill.
Now, however, it’s getting more serious, as my better half is one of those football fans I’m talking about.
If it were just me, I would ride it out. I’m not the hard-core fan she is. If I feel like I absolutely have to see a football game that’s on ABC, I’m not beneath imposing on a friend who is a non-U-Verse customer (I’ll bring food), or sitting in a restaurant bar that has games showing.
As of the time I am filing this column (the Friday before it runs on Monday), we remain without ABC, which will broadcast the Auburn (where all our offspring and in-law offspring attended) vs. Oregon game on Saturday night, August 31. My spouse is in a dilemma about what to do.
She tells me we can either (a) stay with U-Verse and miss games (see above regarding friends’ houses and bars); (b) switch to another provider, which can be accomplished within the next week; or (c) do a free trial with one of the streaming services like YouTube TV or Sling, which would mean we could watch the Auburn game and not be out anything but the 30 bucks or so we would have to spend on a new streaming device because ours is apparently outdated. (This is beginning to get way over my head, by the way).
In the event we like the streaming service, we could even become cord cutters, she says, and go with that exclusively.
I told her it’s her decision. I figure every option will cost me something.
If we stay with U-Verse and she wants to see a game, I need to be supportive and go with her. So I’m taking food to a friend’s house, or paying for beer at the bar to justify sitting there. If I change providers, I’m paying an installation fee. If I go the streaming route, I have to buy the updated device.
These first world pains get stressful, don’t they?
I guess this is where I should invite you to stay tuned — although not to ABC if you live around here and you’re a U-Verse customer.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at email@example.com.