As Cox-owned local channels remain dark on AT&T TV and DirecTV, the American Television Alliance (ATVA) has taken its response to the disagreement one step further and has filed a letter with the FCC.
Just after the blackout began, ATVA spokeswoman Jessica Kendust responded by saying that removing the channels just before the Super Bowl demonstrates how broadcasters like Cox Media Group intentionally cause maximum disruption and harm for consumers in order to extract exorbitant fees.”
Today, the organization, which is a coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers, sent a letter to point out “the egregious behavior of private equity firm Apollo Global Management and its Cox Media Group subsidiaries” by purposely choosing to interrupt service just before the Super Bowl, affecting viewers in five markets.
“In two days, more than 150 million Americans will sit down to watch Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl … Fox News described the Super Bowl as “a shared experience that is truly American,” the filing reads. “Yet the New York private equity giant Apollo Global Management has directed its Cox Media Group subsidiary to pull CBS stations from tens of thousands of AT&T customers. Viewers in Seattle, Dayton, Yuma, Eureka, and Greenwood Mississippi who have done nothing wrong will thus miss the Super Bowl on AT&T’s video platforms.”
AT&T, which a member of ATVA, argues that choosing this time to threaten and follow through on a blackout was “chosen to use the moment in which it can inflict maximum harm on viewers in order to extract maximum fees well into the future.” The letter also points out that Cox has a history of using the Super Bowl as leverage, having pulled or threatened to pull channels airing the Super Bowl from Charter Spectrum, Dish Network, Verizon Fios, CableOne, and AT&T in the past.
“This is intolerable. No broadcaster—whether owned by a private equity giant like Apollo Global or, more rarely these days, a mom-and-pop company—should be allowed to black out marquee events like the Super Bowl,” ATVA’s filing adds in closing. “And no broadcaster should be permitted to evade the Commission’s local media ownership rules to control two “top-four” networks in a market, much less all four such networks.”