A possible long-term blackout of 14 Cox Media Group local broadcast television stations to subscribers of AT&T U-Verse and co-owned DirecTV in 10 markets has been averted.
News of a new retransmission agreement first surfaced some 17 hours into New Year’s Day, with Cox’s WHBQ-13 in Memphis, a FOX affiliate, posting a notice on its website stating, “CMG is pleased to announce that it has reached a long-term deal that will restore WHBQ to your DIRECTV or AT&T U-Verse service. We regret any inconvenience that was caused by this brief interruption in service and are committed to continue providing the Mid-South with the same high-quality local service you have come to expect.”
This was followed by a nearly identical post to the website of ABC WFTV-9 in Orlando on Monday morning (1/2). However, WFTV added, “Service will be restored as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.”
Even so, both Cox and DirecTV can breath a sigh of relief, as the new deal will likely have little impact on subscriber losses or advertiser concern.
As of Dec. 29, no agreement appeared in sight between Cox and AT&T regarding WFTV, WHBQ and 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.
- 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 warned viewers ahead of the blackout deadline 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.”
Cox noted 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.”
Terms of the new accord between Cox and DirecTV were not disclosed.