After a dispute between DirecTV and TEGNA led to a blackout in fifty-one markets that lasted for several weeks late last year, there’s now another dispute that has led to a blackout for another set of the satellite service’s customers.
The new dispute is between AT&T-owned DirecTV and Cox Media Group and has led to the blocking of Cox-owned stations in twenty markets for DirecTV customers. The blackout, like most of its kind, appears to hinge on a dispute over the fees paid by one party to the other.
The twenty markets affected by the dispute include such larger markets as Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Memphis, Orlando, Pittsburgh and Seattle, as well as smaller ones like Alexandria, Louisiana., Binghamton, N.Y., Dayton, Ohio, Eureka, Calif., Greenville-Greenwood, Miss., Idaho Falls, Idaho; Medford, Ore., Spokane, Syracuse, Tulsa, Yakima, Wash., and Yuma, Arizona.
For the channels that are affiliated with CBS, it could complicate viewers’ ability to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, although there are other ways to watch the game, including online.
“CMG viewers know our trusted local stations are there to deliver the news and information they need to make decisions for their families. Its disappointing that AT&T/DIRECTV has decided to deprive them of that access. We take pride in serving our communities and we will fight to continue to fulfill this responsibility,” Paul Curran, CMG’s EVP of Television, said in a statement by the company.
Cox went on to suggest that those unable to get the channels “switch to another cable TV, satellite or streaming provider—or to use an over-the-air antenna.”
In AT&T/DirecTV’s own statement, issued to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets, stated that “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 WSB-ABC back into their local lineups, but Cox and Apollo alone have exclusive control over which homes are allowed to receive WSB-ABC and any ABC programs in Atlanta... We continue to work with Apollo and Cox to get to WSB-ABC back and appreciate our customers’ patience while we do.”
The specific mention of Apollo Global Management in the statement is especially intriguing. This is because Apollo has been frequently mentioned as a bidder for a stake in DirecTV, and AT&T is reportedly auctioning off such a stake. However, more recent reports indicate that TPG, not Apollo, has emerged as the favorite to emerge from the process with the DirecTV stake.
Cox was acquired by an entity owned by Apollo in a deal that closed in late 2019.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.