COVID-19 Crisis Kills Cox/DISH Retrans Dispute


It took a pandemic to put a stop to a retransmission consent dispute that, by law, has blocked Cox Media Group stations from reaching DISH customers in 10 DMAs.

The markets are those comprising what was Brian Brady’s Northwest Broadcasting, now a part of Cox’s “Terrier” assets.

In an announcement distributed just after 10pm Pacific Sunday (3/15), CMG and DISH agreed to “suspend” their contractual dispute “to air critical news and programming in markets across the country.”

In a statement, CMG said, “Our nation is facing an unprecedented health challenge due to the COVID-19 outbreak. To help keep our communities safe, healthy and informed, Cox Media Group has worked closely with DISH Network to reach a mutual agreement to set aside the contractual retransmission dispute between the two companies.”

When it came to retransmission consent disagreements with the nation’s two DBS providers or big MVPDs such as Charter Communications-owned Spectrum, Northwest Broadcasting was one of the TV station owners in the news more than others.

Today, Northwest’s 18 station roster is part of the “Terrier” assets managed by Cox Media Group and majority-owned by Apollo Global Management.

However, retrans negotiations for this group of stations are separate from those involving Cox’s legacy stations.

This led to the expiration of the previous Northwest/DISH agreement, on January 18.

Blocked until today from DISH subscribers are the following stations:

  • CBS affiliate KSWT-13; Estrella TV, on KSWT-13.2; and NBC affiliate KYMA-11 in Yuma, Ariz.
  • CBS affiliate KJRW-17 (formerly KVIQ); DT multicast channels with the market’s affiliates for The CW and MyNetworkTV; and NBC affiliate KIEM-3 in Eureka-Arcata, Calif. This impacted only Del Norte County and the town of Crescent City, Calif., area, as Altice USA-owned Suddenlink is the main provider serving Humboldt County.
  • KFFX-11 in Yakima, Wash., the market’s FOX affiliate, and simulcast partner KCYU-LD 41 in Tri-Cities, Wash.
  • FOX affiliate KMVU-26 in Medford-Ashland, Ore.
  • KAYU-28 in Spokane, the market’s FOX affiliate.
  • FOX affiliate WSYT-68 in Syracuse.
  • NBC affiliate KPVI-6 in Idaho Falls-Pocatello, Idaho.
  • FOX affiliate WICZ-40 in Binghamton, N.Y.
  • Lost Coast Broadcasting’s KLAX-31 and KWCE-LP 27 in Alexandria, La., acquired in September 2018. Some 50.1% ownership in the company is held by NBI Holdings LLC — a limited liability company that is wholly owned by Brian Brady.
  • WABG (ABC), WABG-HD2 (FOX), WNBD (NBC), and WXVT (CBS), all stations serving the Greenville-Greenwood, Miss., DMA.

“This is an example of broadcasters and distributors setting aside their differences to ensure our communities are being served by their favorite local broadcast news outlets,” Cox said in a statement.

CMG CEO Kim Guthrie added, “From the onset of this situation, our CMG newsrooms across the country have been working around the clock to provide accurate and up-to-date information to the communities we serve. We are pleased to be able to restore these channels on DISH so that our viewers in these communities can be informed and able to make the right decisions for the safety of their families. We appreciate DISH’s cooperation in agreeing to suspend our dispute so that we can help our viewers navigate through this uncertain time.”

The DISH drop was just the latest “blackout” involving Brian Brady’s group. From Feb. 22-Oct. 11, 2019, the then-Northwest stations, along with 17 other properties across 10 markets, were blanked from AT&T-owned DirecTV due to a prolonged, and bitter, retrans impasse.

Then, there was the 2018 bitter retransmission fee dispute with Charter’s Spectrum MVPD service. That disagreement lasted four months.