EUREKA, CALIF. — It was hardly expected, considering all of the back and forth rhetoric and typical “it’s their fault” statements between a TV station owner and an MVPD in the midst of heated negotiations during a retransmission consent accord impasse.
But, just past 4pm Pacific on Thursday (1/29), Altice USA-owned Suddenlink suddenly restored each of the Cox Media Group stations that had blocked from viewers, by law, in the absence of a fresh deal.
It ends a nearly three-week standoff between Apollo Global Management-controlled CMG and Suddenlink, and brings FOX affiliates KAYU-28 in Spokane, WHBQ-13 in Memphis and KOKI-23 in Tulsa; ABC affiliate KLAX-31 in Alexandria; the CBS and NBC affiliates serving Eureka-Arcata, Calif.; and the ABC, FOX, NBC and CBS stations serving Greenwood and Greenville, Miss., back to Suddenlink systems.
In a brief statement, CMG and Altice USA/Suddenlink said the parties agreed to a new multi-year retransmission consent deal.
The agreement covers the former Northwest Broadcasting properties, which have a legacy retransmission accord with Suddenlink, Dish and DirecTV that remains in place.
“The parties wish to thank consumers for their patience during this negotiation,” Altice USA and CMG said.
That’s a big change in tone from earlier this month. CMG’s initial statement blamed Suddenlink, which “unfortunately opted to place their customers in the middle of their negotiations.” Roughly one hour later, Suddenlink issued its own statement “related to Cox Media Group pulling its networks” from its TV lineups in six markets.
The “blackout” on Suddenlink, the dominant MVPD serving Humboldt County, Calif., presented an ironic twist for Cox. Fifteen years ago, it owned the cable system and operated it under Cox Communications branding. The stations it owns today, dominant NBC affiliate KIEM-3 in Eureka and CBS sibling KVIQ-LP 14, came to CMG in late 2019 after Brian Brady’s Northwest Broadcasting was sold to Apollo, ahead of its Cox deal. In 2005, KVIQ was a Clear Channel-owned property using Channel 6, picked up in 2002 from Ackerley Group. KIEM was owned by Pollack/Belz Broadcasting.
The loss of KIEM and KVIQ on Suddenlink also attracted the attention of Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who is the Member of Congress representing the North Coast. Huffman said on Monday (1/25) that he planned to move forward with the reintroduction of legislation that was first brought to fruition in Congress in 2019.
The bill focused on the proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, which imploded following the issuance of a Hearing Designation Order by the FCC to Sinclair due to the company’s questionable proposed spinoff of such stations as WPIX-11 in New York and WGN-9 in Chicago.
Addressing the “blackout” of CMG stations by Suddenlink, Huffman told the Gannett-owned Times-Standard, “I think these are the types of things that happen when you have too much media consolidation and not enough competition. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had issues like this on the North Coast. I think we need this new administration and the FCC to do a much better job pushing back on this consolidation trend.”
Reporting by Ethan Hunt in Eureka, Calif., and Adam Jacobson in Boca Raton, Fla.