Cox & AT&T Battle Over Sinking Ship

  Oklahoma customers of AT&T U-verse and Direct TV are awaking to a couple of dead local channels, on New Years Day. Cox Communications owns local TV channels as well as the Cox Cable Systems which brings the broadcast stations into hundreds of thousands of homes who would not otherwise get the signal via antenna. This cable war changed greatly in 1991, when congress overrode the veto of President GHW Bush. the legislation was a power-grab for broadcasters who were losing massive revenues to cable TV innovators. It required cable systems to carry all local stations within a market. And it required the cable systems to pay a fee for the programming. Sometimes broadcasters think they deserve more than the minimum royalty and they withhold access to their programming from the cable distributors. While Direct TV is sattilite, it still is being subjected to many of the same federal mandates. AT&T U-verse uses the phone company's infrastructure, but delivers the digital signals essentially the same way digital "cable" does with a coaxial wire.

  Several markets where Cox Communications owns local TV stations are now in a blackout. WSB TV in Atlanta is owned by the Cox group and they are facing the wrath of upset viewers. Essentially, they are leveraging their local stations to demand that their chief competition hand over money. The move is likely to have some unintended consequences. More people will simp[ly go to Radio Shack and buy a simple antenna. That will lead a segment of the subscribers to drop any pay for signal service. Still others will tap into Roku or other devices. And others will even dump TV watching altogether. AT& T released this statement in the ongoing negotiations with the Atlanta affiliate, WSB:
  • “We want to keep WSB in our DIRECTV and U-verse customers’ local lineups,” Catherine Stengel, senior manager for public relations at AT&T, said in the release, “but its owner, Cox Broadcasting, is threatening to block the station from reaching those homes unless they receive a significant increase in fees – just to allow the same families to keep watching shows that remain available for free over-the-air on channel 2 and that ABC typically streams for free at and to fans using the WatchABC app. Cox has suspended its stations briefly from other TV providers’ customers before, so we appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to resolve this matter quickly and reasonably,”
Here's a similar story from Broadcasting Cable Magazine.
With the midnight deadline for reaching a retransmission consent agreement come eand gone, DirectTV and AT&T U-Verse have dropped Cox Media Group-owned stations in 10 markets. The stations are: WSB Atlanta; WFXT Boston; WSOC/WAXN Charlotte, N.C.; WHIO Dayton, Ohio; WFOX Jacksonville, Fla.; WHBQ Memphis, Tenn.; WFTV/WRDQ Orlando, Fla.; WPXI Pittsburgh, Pa.; KIRO Seattle, Wash.; and KOKI/KMYT Tulsa, Okla. “It isn’t exactly a Happy New Year for AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV subscribers in CMG’s markets,” said executive VP of television Jane Williams. “We are as confused as our viewers about why AT&T/DirecTV has decided to remove our stations from their video service when CMG has for weeks now been offering AT&T/DirectTV a fair deal to continue carrying our stations." Williams said she hopes the blackout will be short-lived. “Negotiations continue, and we expect this disruption to be brief considering that every other pay-TV provider has come to reasonable terms with CMG,” she said. “We have made ourselves available twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week to get this deal done.”