The broadcast TV station owner under majority control of Apollo Global Management is warning its viewers that one of the nation’s two direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service providers is planning to drop its stations from local channel lineups.
Call it a preemptive advisory that suggests a retransmission consent impasse could be just days away — again.
On Thursday evening, Cox Media Group issued a statement noting that it has called on DirecTV “to not block its customers’ access to breaking local news and weather, emergency information, live major sports and other entertainment programming provided by CMG’s local TV stations.”
That’s CMG’s way of saying that, as of now, DirecTV is not willing to agree to the terms presented by the TV station owner for a new retransmission consent accord. Indeed, CMG says that DirecTV “appears intent on pulling all of CMG’s local TV stations from its lineup, starting as early as February 2.”
By law, MVPDs including DirecTV and Dish are not permitted to provide broadcast TV signals to customers without a retransmission consent accord. That means that at 12:01am Eastern on February 2, CMG’s stations will go dark on DirecTV in the absence of a fresh deal.
The timing of the latest tussle between CMG and DirecTV is a reprise of tough negotiations seen three years ago, and comes right before the February 11 airing of Super Bowl LVIII on CBS.
As such, the telecast is threatened to be blocked to DirecTV subscribers in Seattle, where CMG owns CBS affiliate KIRO-7; and in Dayton, Ohio, where CMG owns heritage CBS station WHIO-7.
In Jacksonville, Fla., CMG operates CBS affiliate WJAX-47 in that market. However, a DirecTV spokesperson says WJAX is not impacted. WJAX-TV is a television station in Jacksonville, Florida, United States, affiliated with CBS. It is owned by Hoffman Communications, which maintains a joint sales agreement with Cox Media Group.
Commenting on the potential disruption for CMG’s stations, EVP Marian Pittman said, “We’re dismayed that DIRECTV is trying to force a deal that would harm local journalism and broadcast stations. This hurts consumers who rely on our high-quality local news, weather, and entertainment programming.”
CMG also makes the claim that DirecTV’s strategy “stands to threaten the viability of local journalism at a time when broadcast TV stations are often the last source of local news, emergency information, and consumer protection left in their communities. While DirecTV aggressively tries to undermine the value of local broadcast stations, they know the truth. Local broadcast stations, including CMG’s stations, are consistently the most popular channels on DirecTV’s lineup.”
RBR+TVBR reached out to a DirecTV spokesperson for comment. As the DBS provider sees it, it is working with CMG to reach a new agreement “that will align the value and quality customers receive with the price they pay. Our request to Cox Media Group is simple, don’t force your viewers who are our customers, to pay an unwarranted rate increase for ‘free’ news, sports and entertainment that is widely available on local station websites, through an over-the-air digital antenna and direct-to-consumer streaming platforms.”
As CMG and DirecTV due it out over a new retransmission fee accord, individual TV stations owned by CMG including WSB-2 in Atlanta, its ABC-affiliated flagship property, are asking viewers to call 1-800-531-5000 to demand DirecTV keep the station on its lineup.
MVPDs have largely been critical of such tactics, assailing broadcast television stations for getting consumers involved in business negotiations.