On January 29, word first surfaced that Cox Media Group — fresh off a victory in getting some of its broadcast TV stations restored to Suddenlink systems thanks to the signing of a new retransmission consent accord — would soon face a new retrans “blackout.”
Lo and behold, that has transpired. On Monday evening at 11:59pm local time, all CMG stations were blocked from viewers who get their TV services from AT&T‘s direct broadcast satellite service: DirecTV.
It marks the second retrans-related scuffle of 2021 for Cox, and puts a black mark on Apollo Global Management, the majority owner of CMG. Since the completion of Apollo’s takeover of CMG, CEO Kim Guthrie exited. Then, EVP of Radio Bill Hendrich announced his retirement — just as several high-profile programming and air personalities were no longer at some of CMG’s biggest station in Florida, WFEZ “Easy 93.1.”
To make matters worse for Apollo, its founder, Leon Black, is stepping down as Chairman?CEO due to his ties to one of the most infamous American financiers of the modern era, the late Jeffrey Epstein.
This dispute sees the prevention of all Cox-owned stations from reaching DirecTV users.
The stations potentially impacted include its legacy properties, and several properties once owned by Brian Brady‘s Northwest Broadcasting:
- WSB-2, the ABC affiliate in Atlanta
- WFXT-25, the FOX affiliate in Boston
- WSOC-9, the ABC affiliate in Charlotte, and independent sibling WAXN-64
- WHIO-7 in Dayton, the market’s dominant station and a CBS affiliate
- WFOX-30 in Jacksonville, the FOX affiliate along Florida’s First Coast, and the MyNetwork TV affiliate using WFOX-30.2
- WHBQ-13, the FOX affiliate in Memphis
- WFTV-9, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, and unaffiliated WRDQ-27
- WPXI-11, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh
- KIRO-7, the CBS affiliate in Seattle
- KOKI-23, the FOX affiliate in Tulsa, and MyNetwork TV sibling KMYT-41
- KIEM-3, the NBC affiliate, and low-powered KVIQ-14, the CBS affiliate, in Eureka-Arcata, Calif.
- KAYU-28 in Spokane, the FOX affiliate
The loss of KIEM and KVIQ, and of KAYU, from DirecTV is especially frustrating, as some local TV consumers switched to that service during Suddenlink’s blackout of those stations during the first three weeks of January 2021.
In a statement appearing on the website for KIEM — a statement mirroring one posted to all CMG TV station websites — Cox put all of the blame once again on AT&T and DirecTV.
CMG assailed DirecTV, which it said “refused to agree to a fair agreement.”
Then came a statement that’s simply untrue:
We cannot force AT&T/DIRECTV to keep retransmitting our stations – we are dark because AT&T/DIRECTV has chosen to remove KIEM and KVIQ from its service. We are hopeful that AT&T/DIRECTV will abandon its blackout of our stations to the detriment of viewers in favor of meaningful negotiations that lead to a mutually beneficial deal for all parties.
By law, a MVPD cannot bring a broadcast TV signal to its customers without a retransmission consent accord. And, it takes the cooperation of both parties to get it signed.
As such, CMG is taking a highly aggressive approach in its quest for much higher rates for its TV stations.
In a statement appearing across all Cox station websites, the company said, “During these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever that our viewers know their trusted local stations are there for them, providing the news and information they need to make critical decisions for their families. CMG stations take pride in being trustworthy resources for our communities, and we will fight to continue to fulfill this responsibility.”
Yet, they are not there if the viewers subscribe to DirecTV.
What does AT&T have to say?
A company spokesperson on Wednesday (2/3) said AT&T is “disappointed Cox Media Group and Wall Street financier Apollo Global Management have intentionally put our customers into the middle of a private business matter.”