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6.5 million DirecTV subscribers lost access to CBS programming early on Saturday morning (20 July) after the broadcaster and AT&T failed to renew their contract. 

Boasting hit shows like ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Stephen Colbert’s Late Show’ the CBS network is carried in about 119 million homes across the US, either on a pay television service or free over the air. 

The network was cut off from AT&T’s satellite service DirecTV as well as the landline-delivered U-verse and DirecTV Now, the live streaming product, after the two were unable to agree on the terms of a new contract before the old one ended on Saturday morning.

Despite negotiating on the contract for several weeks, AT&T and CBS could not decide on pricing and streaming rights. The pay-TV operator is pushing for a smaller fee increase and the ability to sell the streaming service as a separate option by removing it from the basic bundle.

CBS posted a public announcement on its website, that claimed: “After months of negotiations, CBS is simply looking to receive fair value for its popular programming and is proposing economic terms similar to those that AT&T’s competitors have accepted in hundreds of our recent distribution agreements.”

The contract was originally signed in 2012, but CBS argues that is now nowhere close to today’s fair market terms for CBS content. 

CBS claim that AT&T has declined a 30-day extension which could have prevented the blackout.  

In response, AT&T has branded CBS a “repeat blackout offender” and said it has been demanding unprecedented increases in the fees it charges.

With neither side backing down, CBS has told viewers that the loss of CBS programming could last a long time. It is reported that the affected customers account for tens of millions of dollars in monthly revenue to CBS.