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Cox Media Stations Get Blacked Out on AT&T

Cox Media Group CMG DirecTV AT&T
Message about the blackout on the WSB-TV website Tuesday

Stations owned by Cox Media Group in 20 markets are no longer available to subscribers of AT&T’s DirecTV because of a retransmission consent dispute.

On the website of WSB-TV, Atlanta, one of the CMG stations, it said the station was removed “after AT&T/DirecTV refused to agree to a fair agreement with our owner, Cox Media Group, to carry our station.”

It noted that WSB can’t force DirecTV to retransmit the station. “We are hopeful that AT&T-DirecTV will abandon its blackout of our station to the detriment of viewers in favor of meaningful negotiations that lead to a mutually beneficial deal for all parties,” the WSB website said. 

In a statement last week, CMG said “We have been working hard to get a fair, market-based deal with AT&T-DirecTV and they have not shown that they are moving that way.”

CMG, controlled by Apollo Global Management, owns stations in 20 markets, that reach 52 million Americans weekly.

CMG's CEO, Dan York, was previously chief content officer at AT&T, which means he negotiated with stations for the satellite company before becoming a broadcast executive.

 “We’re disappointed Cox Media Group and Wall Street financier Apollo Global Management have intentionally put our customers into the middle of a private business matter. We want to get the Cox stations back into their local lineups, but Cox and Apollo alone have exclusive control over which homes are allowed to receive ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW in certain cities. And even though broadcasters like Cox keep losing viewers and sponsors, by commanding that exclusivity, they can demand take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums, leaving consumers a more than $12 billion-and-rising bill just to keep their ‘free TV,’” an AT&T spokesman said.

“ Apollo-owned stations have an extremely long and disreputable history of either threatening or pulling the Super Bowl and other important events from Buckland Telephone Co., CableOne, Charter Spectrum, Dish Network, Frontier Communications, Suddenlink, Verizon Fios and our own customers,” the spokesmand added. 

“Broadcasters like Cox gin up these contrived blackouts at the precise time it hurts their viewers the most, extract higher fees, and then use their own news outlets to try to intentionally mislead people and skirt any accountability for their relentless and unwarranted price-gouging. That’s a shameless violation of the public trust – especially from a local news provider during a global pandemic,” the AT&T spokesman said. “Now that there’s a new administration, it’s high time the FCC takes a fresh look at this broken retransmission consent system that encourages blackouts and skyrocketing rate increases at consumers’ expense. We continue to work with Apollo and Cox to get to these stations back and appreciate our customers’ patience while we do.”