Cox Media Stations Go Dark to Dish Subscribers

(Image credit: Dish)

Dish subscribers have been blacked out from watching Apollo-controlled Cox Media Group stations in 10 markets in a retransmission-consent dispute.

The stations had been enjoined from interfering with Dish’s ability to retransmit the signals under an agreement reached before Apollo Global Management acquired majority control of the group last year, according to Dish. The case moved from state court in Illinois to Federal Court, which dissolved the restraining order Wednesday.

(Image credit: Cox Media Group)

"We don't understand why Apollo is choosing to put customers in the middle of its negotiations, especially during a global pandemic when customers need access to local news and programming," said Andy LeCuyer, Dish senior VP of programming. "We have offered to apply our current agreement — with higher rates — to keep their channels available and avoid any service interruption while we continue to negotiate, but they refused, demanding a 40% increase to rates agreed to last year. We want to come to a long-term agreement that is fair for our customers."

Dish said it asked Apollo for consent to allow the stations to remain on the air after dissolution of the temporary restraining order, but Apollo rejected the request. Dish said it was willing to pay increased rates for the stations going forward, and to true-up any amounts found owing if Apollo ultimately prevails in the parties' litigation.

CMG blamed Dish for the stations going dark, pointing to the Federal Court ruling, which says, in part, that the broadcaster “cannot prevent Dish from retransmitting the stations. They go dark only if Dish chooses. The court also said that Dish can avoid a blackout by negotiating with CMG.

The broadcaster called Dish had engaged in a “misguided effort to avoid agreeing to a fair market carriage agreement.” It added that it has offered Dish a standard extension in order to negotiate.

“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 decisions for their families,” said Paul Curran, executive VP of television at CMG. “CMG stations are often the top-rated providers of important local and national news, and take pride in being resources for our communities, and we will fight to continue to fulfill this responsibility.”

Cox Media also accused Dish of resorting its "typical inflammatory and manipulative PR campaigns and legal maneuvers. It noted that Dish has dropped more than 50 channels in carriage disputes.

"Dish also continues to unfairly target Apollo Global Management regarding the negotiations related only to CMG, the broadcaster said. "We regret that Dish, as always, is trying to divert attention from the issue at hand – ensuring our valued viewers are able to watch their favorite local programming." 

The stations involved in the blackout are WSB-TV, Atlanta; WFXT-TV, Boston; WSOC-TV, Charlotte; WAXN-TV, Charlotte; WHIO-TV, Dayton; WFOX-TV, Jacksonville, WFOX2-TV, Jacksonville; WHBQ-TV Memphis; WFTV, Orlando; WRDQ-TV, Orlando; WPXI-TV, Pittsburg; KIRO-TV, Seattle, KOKI-TV, Tulsa and KMYT-TV, Tulsa.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.