Super Save: AT&T’s DirecTV, CMG Ink A New Retrans Deal


EUREKA, CALIF. — In the region of California behind the “Redwood Curtain,” National Football League fans largely support the San Francisco 49ers or the Raiders. Still, when it comes to the Super Bowl, everyone with an interest in the NFL — or the commercials in-between the game action — are of interest to just about anyone.

As such, not getting the game due to a retransmission consent “blackout” is a big frustration — one that fueled the ire of a Member of Congress, in addition to pro-MVPD lobby ATVA.

Lo and behold, just before 11am Eastern on Game Day, AT&T and Cox Media Group scored a touchdown for DirecTV subscribers in markets where CMG owns TV stations.

Among those markets: Humboldt County, Calif.; Dayton, Ohio and Seattle.

There, CMG owns the CBS affiliate, home of Super Bowl LV.

In a joint statement, AT&T confirmed that the DirecTV owner and CMG entered into a new multi-year retransmission consent agreement. As such, the prevention of any DirecTV customer receiving a CMG-owned station was immediately lifted.

Had a deal not been reached, viewers in the Seattle and Dayton DMAs with DirecTV as the television service of choice would have been left scrambling for an alternative to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by Tom Brady, smother the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Tampa.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“The parties appreciate consumers’ patience during this negotiation,” the companies said Sunday.

The stations impacted by the retrans impasse and Sunday signing include not only the legacy Cox Media Group stations but also those acquired by Apollo Global Management from Brian Brady’s Northwest Broadcasting and later merged into a new CMG under Apollo majority control.

The stations now back on DirecTV include:

  • 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
  • FOX affiliate KAYU-28 in Spokane
  • FOX affiliate WICZ-40 in Binghamton, N.Y.
  • FOX affiliate WSYT-68 in Syracuse
  • FOX affiliate KMVU-26 in Medford-Ashland, Ore.
  • KPVI-6 in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a NBC affiliate
  • KFFX-11 in Yakima, Wash., the market’s FOX affiliate, and simulcast partner KCYU-LD 41 in Tri-Cities, Wash.
  • CBS affiliate KSWT-13; Estrella TV, on KSWT-13.2; and NBC affiliate KYMA-11 in Yuma, Ariz.
  • KLAX-31 and KWCE-LP 27 in Alexandria, Va.
  • WABG (ABC), WABG-HD2 (FOX), WNBD (NBC), and WXVT (CBS), all stations serving the Greenville-Greenwood, Miss., DMA.

The return of all of these stations to local DirecTV lineups on Sunday morning (2/7), after being yanked Tuesday (2/2), came following an all-out assault on Apollo and CMG by the American Television Alliance (ATVA).

“As a result of Wall Street giant Apollo Global Management’s ongoing and egregious broadcast blackout of its Cox Media Group subsidiary stations, fans in players’ hometowns and college towns won’t be able to watch them suit up with their team for Super Bowl LV this Sunday,” the ATVA stated in a communiqué released late Friday.

It noted how viewers in Seattle with DirecTV were threatened from being able to watch two former University of Washington football players now on the Buccaneers roster.

The ATVA also pointed to Alex Cappa, a Bucs Guard who once played at Humboldt State University in Eureka, Calif.

Chalk that up as another frustration point for locals who had to ensure a “blackout” of CMG-owned CBS affiliate KVIQ-14 and NBC sibling KIEM-3 on Suddenlink systems across much of January. That impasse led some in Humboldt County to drop Suddenlink and shift to DirecTV. Then came the DirecTV/CMG impasse.

Across the impasse with AT&T, CMG stuck to its guns — and even offered a statement that is wholly false.

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. 

In retransmission consent negotiations, both the MVPD and the TV station owner are responsible for reaching a retransmission fee accord that is both prudent and fair to each party.

As AT&T and CMG fought just days after CMG and Altice USA-owned Suddenlink scuffled over a fresh retransmission consent deal, Rep. Jared Huffman spoke up, noting that he’s moving forward with a bill that would go far to end retrans impasses such as these.

“My constituents are tired of these finger pointing exercises where big media conglomerates blame each other while consumers get screwed by blackouts,” Huffman said. “I’m sure there’s some blame to go around, but CMG is the common denominator in the two recent blackouts. At a minimum, that suggests they’re not working proactively to protect consumers. At worst, it suggests they’re using consumers as hostages by letting blackouts happen to maximize their negotiating leverage.  Either way, it’s unacceptable.”

While viewers in big markets such as Seattle and Dayton were in the crosshairs of the potential Super Bowl “blackout,” it is smaller markets such as Eureka-Arcata, Calif.; Yuma, Ariz.; and Greenwood, Miss.; that have seen repeated squelching of signals presently owned by CMG.

In late January 2020, former Northwest Broadcasting stations under Apollo/CMG control were blocked by Dish Network due to a retrans impasse.

That followed a “blackout” by DirecTV of the Northwest-owned stations in October 2019, a reprise of earlier problems between the DBS provider and Brian Brady-led Northwest. In January 2011, the then-Northwest stations were prevented from reaching DirecTV customers in January 2011 and did not return until four weeks later, just in time for the Super Bowl. Then came a new impasse and “blackout,” in late August 2012.

Reporting by Ethan Hunt in Eureka, Calif. Editing by Adam R Jacobson in Boca Raton, Fla.


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