ATVA Attacks “Unreasonable” Retrans Demands by Apollo’s Cox Media Group

Cox Media Group
(Image credit: Cox Media Group)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—American  American Television Alliance (ATVA) has issued a statement criticizing retransmission consent negotiating tactics by Apollo Global Management-owned Cox Media Group. 

Citing examples of what it called blackouts and threats of blackouts this holiday season, the ATVA said that those disruptions highlight why Standard General’s proposed $8.6 billion acquisition of Tegna poses a “significant threat to consumers”. 

The pay-TV operator-backed ATVA group noted that the broadcaster had already pulled its local television stations from Dish customers (opens in new tab) this holiday season even though the deal is under a great deal of scrutiny as the FCC continues to investigate Standard General's proposed acquisition of Tegna. Dish is a member of the ATVA.

“The unreasonable demands by broadcasters like Apollo’s Cox Media could not come at a worse time for families who rely on their local stations for news during the holiday season and gather together to watch holiday programming and their favorite NFL teams ahead of playoffs,” said ATVA spokesperson Jessica Kendust. “Instead of being on its best behavior as Apollo’s Cox Media pushes for FCC approval of its investment, Apollo’s Cox Media has proven it is willing to disenfranchise viewers who have done nothing wrong while the FCC is watching closely. This suggests that worse could be yet to come when the spotlight is removed.” 

 The ATVA acknowledged that Standard General sent a letter to the FCC seeking to assuage those concerns. In a bid to get rid of concerns that Standard General might work with Cox on retransmission consent deal, the letter clearly states that Cox's retransmission agreements won't apply to Tegna stations.  

Last week's letter to the FCC didn't, however, settle the matter for ATVA. 

“There is a bigger problem here,” added Kendust. “The ATVA has warned that this deal poses a more significant threat to consumers because the pending transaction will ‘intertwine’ Apollo’s Cox Media, Standard General, and Tegna in a way that permits the parties to collude—resulting in higher prices all around. Dish, an ATVA member, says that Apollo’s Cox Media has already attempted to negotiate for Tegna’s stations.”  

“We understand that Standard General has offered conditions to the FCC designed to address some of the harms we identified," the statement continued. "But the reality is that the proposed investment increases the parties’ incentive and ability to collude in ways unaddressed by Standard General’s offer. The FCC should look closely at the transaction and do whatever it takes to prevent big broadcast from colluding.” 

As previously reported, opponents of the deal have expressed concerns that the deal would, among other problems, increase retransmission fees and increase the cost of pay TV for consumers. 

More specifically they have worried that the deal has been structured so that Standard General and the private equity group Apollo Global Management would be able to work together to hike retransmission agreements. 

If the deal is approved, Cox Media Group, which is owned by Apollo, will acquire Tegna stations in Austin (KVUE), Dallas (WFAA and KMPX) and Houston (KHOU and KTBU) from Standard General and CMG and funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management would hold non voting securities in the company.

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.