Cox Media-owned ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX stations went dark on DIRECTV after the two companies failed to reach a new distribution deal.
The latest blackout comes amid disputes between broadcasters and pay-TV companies that are increasingly spilling out to the public. DIRECTV just reached another deal with broadcaster Tegna, which ended a six-week long blackout, and last year dealt with a three-month long blackout before coming to a new agreement with Nexstar. In each dispute, the pay-TV provider argues that the higher rates are unreasonable, while the broadcasters say they want to get fair value for their content.
Both sides had telegraphed that a big dispute was brewing, with Cox-owned stations warning of a potential blackout in the week ahead of the Feb. 2 deadline. Last week saw both companies fire off heated statements at each other.
“We’re dismayed that DIRECTV is trying to force a deal that would harm local journalism and broadcast stations,” Marian Pittman, Cox’s executive vice president, said in a statement at the time. “This hurts consumers who rely on our high-quality local news, weather, and entertainment programming.”
“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,” a DIRECTV spokesperson said in response.
DIRECTV has maintained there are fundamental issues with how these deals are structured, and has offered an a la carte option to broadcasters, allowing them to charge consumers directly for access to their channels. Tegna was the first to get this offer, which it rejected and criticized as DIRECTV’s attempt to add another fee to viewers.
DIRECTV also made the same offer to Cox, but it’s clearly just as unreceptive to the idea as Tegna was.