Cox Media Group, DirecTV reach retrans deal ahead of Super Bowl

Cox Media Group and DirecTV reached a retransmission consent agreement over the weekend that brought the broadcaster’s stations back to the pay TV provider’s customers in nine markets – including two airing Super Bowl LVIII, just ahead of Sunday’s big game.

The companies announced reaching a new deal Sunday afternoon, with the restoration of stations getting underway immediately – starting with CMG’s two CBS affiliates in Seattle and Dayton, Ohio. Those stations were airing the Super Bowl that saw the Kansas City Chiefs beat out the San Francisco 49s in the championship game, which started at 6:30 pm EST Sunday. The remaining stations were slated to come back online at the same time or shortly after.

The new deal marked an end to a roughly week-long channel blackout that impacted 12 stations in nine markets as the broadcaster and pay TV provider clashed over a deal for retransmission consent fees.  

Prior to the new agreement, as the companies continued to negotiate amid the channel blackout, DirecTV accused CMG of “chicken with the industry, willfully ignoring the economics that its programming does not warrant a double-digit annual rate increase on top of an already exorbitant fee structure.”

In a statement following the retrans agreement DirecTV said, “We will continue to work with broadcasters like CMG, as well as any other programmers, to align the price our customers pay with the value they can expect to receive.”

It was also sure to point out that CMG has pulled stations amid retrans negotiations just ahead of the big game before, including in 2021, where after a five-day blackout, stations were returned hours before Super Bowl LV.

It’s the latest resolution between DirecTV and a broadcaster. Last month DirecTV inked a new distribution agreement with Tegna covering 64 of the broadcaster’s owned stations. The deal ended a dispute and channel blackout on DirecTV systems that started in November and returned programming in 51 markets.

The issue of channel blackouts and increased costs stemming from rate disagreements between distributors and programmers or broadcasters have risen to the attention of lawmakers and regulators. The FCC last month proposed requiring satellite and cable pay TV providers to give customers impacted by channel blackouts rebates, contending that when it happens, consumers aren’t getting the full services they pay for.

Some, like the American Television Alliance have argued that the FCC proposal seeks to penalize the wrong party and asserts that local broadcasters are the ones seeking increased fees from distributors (which are typically passed through to consumers on their monthly bills) for the right to transmit their stations and programming and therefore hold the burden and blame of impacts to pay TV customers.