ATVA accuses Cox of holding Super Bowl hostage with AT&T blackout

Cox has accused AT&T of rejecting a fair and reasonable deal and opting instead to drop its channels, which could affect consumer access to the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 7. (Josh Hallett/Flickr)

The American Television Alliance, an advocacy group representing several U.S. cable and satellite providers, has accused Cox Media Group of repeatedly using the Super Bowl as leverage in retransmission fee negotiations.

Cox is currently embroiled in a standoff with AT&T that has caused the removal of local broadcast channels from DirecTV in 20 U.S. markets including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Orlando, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.

ATVA said the blackout could affect viewers who want to watch the Super Bowl, which airs on Sunday, Feb. 7, in Seattle and four smaller markets. The organization said this is now at least the fifth time Cox-owned stations have either threatened or withdrawn the Super Bowl after previous retransmission consent blackouts involving Charter Spectrum, Dish Network, Verizon Fios, Cable One and AT&T.

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“This latest contrived blackout holding such an important national event like the Super Bowl hostage demonstrates how broadcasters like Cox Media Group intentionally cause maximum disruption and harm for consumers in order to extract exorbitant fees,” said ATVA spokeswoman Jessica Kendust in a statement. “The price-gouging behavior of broadcasters like Cox has become increasingly shameless and exploitative and demands action from policymakers in Washington.”

ATVA said current retransmission consent laws are “not only unbalanced but entirely broken” and called for U.S. policymakers to modernize the laws to better protect American consumers and hold broadcasters accountable to their public interest obligations.

For its part, Cox has accused AT&T of rejecting a fair and reasonable deal and opting instead to drop its channels.

“CMG viewers know our trusted local stations are there to deliver the news and information they need to make decisions for their families. It’s 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,” said Paul Curran, CMG’s executive vice president of television, in a statement.

AT&T has updated its TV Promise page with messages for affected markets including Seattle.

“We’re disappointed Cox Media Group has intentionally put you into the middle of a private business matter. We want to get KIRO-CBS back into your local lineups, but Cox Media Group alone has exclusive control over which homes are allowed to receive KIRO-CBS and any CBS programs in Seattle and Tacoma,” the company said.