DirecTV, Cox Media Group Brace for Possible Programming Blackout

DirecTV and Cox Media Group are preparing for a standoff that could result in the former’s customers losing access to the latter’s 14 owned local TV stations across nine markets, including primary affiliates of ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telemundo and MyNetworkTV, as early as midnight on Feb. 2.

The move, which would potentially leave over a million households in the dark during the Super Bowl, comes as the two parties are working to negotiate and close a new retransmission consent agreement.

Cox slammed DirecTV for its “anti-consumer practice of repetitive, extended station drops,” adding that the 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.”

“We’re dismayed that DirecTV is trying to force a deal that would harm local journalism and broadcast stations,” Cox Media Group executive vice president Marian Pittman said in a statement. “This hurts consumers who rely on our high-quality local news, weather, and entertainment programming.”

Cox noted that local broadcast stations are “consistently the most popular channels on DirecTV’s lineup.”

“Our request of DirecTV is simple,” Pittman said. “Don’t rob your customers of their access to the important news, sports and entertainment programming they need and want.”

The company urged “concerned viewers” to call DirecTV to demand that it keeps CMG’s local station on their lineup. It also recommended switching to Xfinity, Spectrum, Verizon/FIOS TV, YouTube TV, or Hulu+Live TV to avoid disruption.

In a statement to TheWrap, DirecTV said it is working to reach an agreement that will “align the value and quality customers receive with the price they pay.”

“Our request to Cox Media Group is simple,” the statement added. “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.”

The company argued that Cox “holds the sole power to provide or withhold its signals” and has been a “repeat offender” of pulling its signals across distributors, noting that the company has been down on Dish since Nov. 28, 2022 and has threatened or pulled stations from other companies including Fubo, Verizon Fios, Comcast and Frontier.

It added that CMG stands to lose “significant amounts of political advertising revenue” as a result of a “potential unnecessary blackout,” citing its licenses in battleground states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Additionally, DirecTV pointed out that networks are “increasingly simulcasting and migrating live sports and other key programming across multiple channels and direct-to-consumer platforms, diluting the exclusive value station affiliates used to possess.” Examples include the Super Bowl, which will be available via CBS Sports, Nickelodeon, TelevisaUnivision, Paramount+ or through an over-the-air antenna on Feb. 11, the NHL All-Star Game , which will stream on ESPN+ on Feb. 3, and The Grammys, which will stream on Paramount+ on Feb. 4.

“NBC does the same on Peacock and ABC and FOX typically stream primetime shows on Hulu while The CW streams all its shows for free on,” it added.

In the event of a potential blackout, DirecTV said its customers can access CMG’s stations through individual station websites or an over-the-air digital antenna.It added that it would provide assistance including a potential bill credit to impacted customers.

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