WASHINGTON—The American Television Alliance (ATVA) is putting on an all-out blitz against Cox Media Group and its parent company Apollo Global Management after CMG stations went dark for AT&T/DirecTV customers in 20 markets on Feb. 2, including the CBS affiliates in five markets, Seattle and Dayton, Ohio, among them, just days before Super Bowl LV.
ATVA already highlighted what it says is a pattern for CMG to use the Super Bowl as a bargaining chip in retransmission negotiations, but the organization is continuing to criticize CMG and Apollo, describing the removal of stations as a “brazen assault on consumers and profiteering that defies any reconciliation with broadcast industry promises” to avoid service interruptions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It isn’t just the timing ahead of the Super Bowl that has drawn the ire of ATVA, it also is critical of pulling stations in markets like Yuma, Ariz., and Eureka, Calif., where it says Apollo controls multiple Big Four network affiliations, as well as Greenville, Miss., where Apollo controls all four national broadcast network feeds.
“So, with a flick of a switch, Apollo has not only cut off all national network programming to AT&T subscribers in the Greenville market, but also most local TV news in the midst of a public health crisis in one of the 15 states with the most confirmed COVID cases per residents,” said Jessica Kendust, ATVA spokeswoman.
ATVA calls on the FCC to take action to prevent such local consolidation, saying that groups like Apollo will take every advantage they can.
“Apollo’s out-and-out price-gouging shows why these rules must be protected, strengthened and actually enforced to eliminate a stampede of greed at American consumers’ expense,” Kendust added.
In its press release, ATVA points to comments made by NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, saying that “broadcasters don’t want to see service interruptions of any kind.”
ATVA counters that statement with the claim that 2020 saw a record number of blackouts (342) despite the impact of the pandemic.
CMG referred to a statement from Paul Curran, its executive vice president of Television, from the press release announcing the stations being dropped when TV Tech asked for a comment. Here is that statement:
“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.”
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