Channel 2 blackout


WCBD-TV is in its seventh week of a blackout in Charleston as a contract dispute between AT&T and broadcast company Nexstar Media Group carries on. 

AT&T, owner of U-verse and DirecTV, and Nexstar, which operates the local WCBD station, have been at odds since Independence Day. The disagreement centers on how much AT&T should have to pay Nexstar to air its programming.

Around 120 stations in 100 markets are blacked out as a result. 

The resolution of a different dispute between AT&T and CBS in the first week of August brought CBS-owned affiliates back to AT&T subscribers. But it brought no reprieve to viewers who like to tune in to the local Nexstar affiliate. 

A notice AT&T has posted to its website accuses Nexstar of putting customers at the center of negotiations. The broadcast company is asking for unreasonably high fees, AT&T says. Meanwhile, prime time audiences for the four major networks — ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC — have declined by about half in the last few years.  

"Despite this, Nexstar is demanding the largest increase that AT&T has ever seen from any content provider," AT&T's statement reads.

Negotiations have continued in the past few weeks, Ann Elsas, an AT&T spokeswoman, said in a statement. 

Nexstar says it offered AT&T an extension to allow its customers to have access to the channel during negotiations, but AT&T declined. The broadcaster is asking for fair market rates, it argues.

"AT&T's attempts to disparage Nexstar will not be tolerated," the company said in a press release in mid-July. The press release included a point-by-point rebuttal of most of what AT&T is telling its customers about the dispute.

In a call with investors in early August, Nexstar executives said they wouldn't make details of their negotiations with AT&T public. 

Meanwhile, consumers are continuing to cut their cable cords altogether. Sixty-seven percent of viewers are pay-TV subscribers this year, down from 73 percent in 2017, according to the professional services firm PwC. Netflix users ticked up from 73 to 76 percent in the same time frame, and surpassed cable and satellite usage for the first time in 2018.

Reach AT&T customer service at 800-331-0500.

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.

Inc. 5000 notes SC firms

Only about 1 percent of the 5,000 private companies in Inc. magazine's annual feature of fastest-growing firms are based in South Carolina, but the list spotlighted several standouts.

A few dozen South Carolina companies made the list, released Wednesday. Topping the rankings for the Palmetto State is Mount Pleasant-based digital advertising firm Factorial Digital

Gotcha, ranked 277th, was South Carolina's fastest growing tech company, its second year in the rankings. Inc. calculated its revenue growth rate at 1,572 percent since 2015. Gotcha makes vehicles like scooters and electric tricycles, along with software that helps users rent them.

Greenville-based auto finance company Global Lending Services had the most revenue — $238.2 million — among South Carolina firms in the rankings.

The issue of the magazine will be out Tuesday.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.