DirecTV Offering Credits, Antennas Amid New TV Blackout With Cox Media Group

Feb 04, 2024

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 3, 2024 – Top satellite TV provider DirecTV, locked in a new contract dispute with a TV station owner, is offering assistance to subscribers who have lost access to stations owned by Cox Media Group (CMG) since Friday.

Because the sides failed to reach a new carriage deal, also called retransmission consent, DirecTV is no longer legally permitted to distribute 12 CMG stations in nine markets. The blackout, started after the previous contract expired, includes subscribers to DirectTV STREAM and U-verse.

Via its TV Promise website, DirecTV has established a zip code-based search system to determine a customer's eligibility for credits, which can take up two billing cycles to appear on bills.

DirecTV is also reaching out to customers who are eligible for a Local Channel Connector based on location (or anticipated signal strength) and capable hardware, a DirecTV spokesman said, adding that the connector is an antenna that integrates local TV signals into the program guide.

DirecTV has about 11.8 million pay-TV subscribers, according to Leichtman Research Group.

DirecTV’s consumer efforts come as Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has put a national spotlight on retransmission consent with regard to its financial impact on consumers and the inconvenience it can bring on.

Last month, the FCC launched a rulemaking that proposes to require cable TV and satellite TV operators to provide rebates to consumers who continued to pay for TV stations removed because of a contract dispute. Broadcasters would be exempt from the rebate requirement.

Last Wednesday, DirecTV Chief Content Officer Rob Thun testified on Capitol Hill in opposition to the FCC’s rebate proposal.

“Listen, if there's mandates that rebates are provided to customers, you’ve handed even more leverage to broadcasters in already stilted negotiations,” Thun said to the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Separately, the FCC has a second proceeding that would require cable TV and satellite TV providers to report a blackout to the agency that lasts more than 24 hours. They would have 48 hours to file the first blackout report and two business days to report that the parties had reached an agreement. The FCC is planning to exempt TV stations from the reporting mandate.

On Jan. 13, DirecTV ended a six-week blackout with Tegna, which involved 64 stations in 51 markets. The agreement came just hours before the start of the NFL playoffs and two days after Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.) demanded an end to the blackout with the Cleveland Browns in a Jan. 13 playoff tilt to be televised by Tegna's NBC affiliate in Cleveland.

CMG’s ABC affiliate in Atlanta has a banner on its website that reads: “Breaking News: DirecTV has removed WSBTV from its lineup. Call 1-800-531-5000 today & demand they bring WSBTV back.” CMG’s other stations are doing the same except for two outlets in Jacksonville and one in Eugene, Ore.

On Sunday, Feb. 11, CBS is broadcasting Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. CBS parent Paramount Global is streaming the game on Paramount+, which costs $5.99 month after a free one-week trial.

CMG has the CBS affiliate in Dayton, Oh., and Seattle.