Here’s Another Retrans Fight Right At The Wire


With 48 hours to go, some 10 Cox Media Group local broadcast television stations could be blacked out come Jan. 1 to subscribers of AT&T U-Verse or co-owned DirecTV services in the markets where these stations are located.

We have an RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION on this stalemate, for members only, below. Simply put: Such down-to-the-wire negotiations in 2017 will only lead more viewers to cut the cord, get Roku (where Cox stations already have a home), and buy a $24 HD antenna for over-the-air reception. 

As of Dec. 29, no agreement appeared in sight between Cox and AT&T regarding the following stations:

  • Flagship Cox property WSB-2 in Atlanta, an ABC affiliate
  • Fox affiliate WFXT-25 in Boston
  • ABC affiliate WSOC-9 and nonaffiliated WAXN-64 in Charlotte
  • CBS affiliate WHIO-7 in Dayton
  • FOX affiliate WFOX-30 in Jacksonville, Fla.
  • WHBQ-13 in Memphis, a FOX affiliate
  • ABC WFTV-9 and nonaffiliated WRDQ-27 in Orlando
  • NBC WPXI-11 in Pittsburgh
  • CBS KIRO-7 in Seattle
  • FOX KOKI-23 and MyNetwork KMYT-41 in Tulsa, Okla.

In a statement appearing on the website of WHBQ, which mirrors that of the other nine stations impacted by the impasse, Cox explained that “despite prolonged negotiations, it appears that DirecTV is unwilling to carry the station starting at Midnight on New Year’s Eve (Pacific Time) … FOX13 cannot force DirecTV to strike a deal that keeps FOX13 programming on DirecTV’s channel lineup after that deadline.”

Viewers were advised to contact AT&T U-Verse or DirecTV customer service, to say “that you pay them a lot of money to watch your favorite shows” and “that if it drops FOX13, then you will drop them.”

Such efforts are, of course, designed to win over consumer sentiment as Cox notes they can watch their free over-the-air programming via “an inexpensive HD antenna.”

Cox notes that it has carriage agreements in place “with every other major cable and satellite company,” including DISH Network and Comcast. “AT&T [and] DirecTV, however, insists that it should pay substantially lower rates than what it pays competing video providers.  Naturally, we cannot give away our product for less than it is worth.”

Cox is being aggressive in its approach, letting viewers know just how much in retransmission fees, per customer, it expects to receive from DirecTV and AT&T.

“Based on publicly available information, AT&T DirecTV pays over $6 per subscriber per month for ESPN.  In other words, $6 from your monthly bill goes straight to ESPN.  Our ratings are much higher than ESPNs!  Yet, we are asking for less than one-third of what AT&T DirecTV pays to ESPN.  More importantly, ESPN has no local programming, no local employees, no local investments, and a very small local audience, unlike WHBQ FOX13,” a second posting on the matter at the WHBQ website states.

DirecTV viewers in Boston, Pittsburgh and Orlando could be getting a double-punch of static as the New Year rings in.

As RBR + TVBR reported Wednesday (12/28), DirecTV and Hearst are still negotiating a renewal of retransmission consent agreements for the carriage of all Hearst stations on the DBS provider.

If there’s no deal by the time the clock strikes Midnight on New Year’s Eve, 31 full-power TV stations — and their digital multicast partners — could go dark on DirecTV.

Among the stations that could lose DirecTV coverage are ABC affiliate WTAE-4 in Pittsburgh; NBC affiliate KCRA-3 in Sacramento; NBC WESH-2 and The CW WKCF-18 in Orlando; WPBF-25 in West Palm Beach; and ABC WCVB-5 in Boston.

RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: We here at the RBR + TVBR Editorial Palace hate reporting on these down-to-the-wire negotiation stories. Why? Because it is clearly a pity tactic used to generate viewer ire and, subsequently, calls to DirecTV and AT&T to let them do the work that Cox Media Group’s legal team and business management executives need to do. It’s 2017, and at the end of the day DirecTV and AT&T actually lose — kind of. Maybe Cox loses — but not really. See, we here at RBR + TVBR just got a Roku device. Guess what? All Cox TV stations are there as an App. I can watch WHBQ-13’s 9 O’Clock News just fine. We aren’t even in Memphis. So why would anyone need DirecTV and U-Verse? Well, the answer of course is all of the other programming. That’s easily solved with a $24 HD antenna for over-the-air reception. So, explain again why these negotiations are stalling out all over the country, as we also have Frontier Communications threatening to dump big stations in Portland, Ore., and Seattle if a retrans deal is not done? Oh, wait … it’s about money, like it always is. Screw the viewer and hold them hostage. One day, this so-called valued programming both parties are squabbling over won’t be worth the agony of having a blackout. The viewer will just move on. That’s when TV as an industry loses. Just get these deals done, already, so we don’t have to report on things designed to get our readers to advocate on behalf of broadcast companies.