Carriage disputes often take place around high-impact sports events, with station owners trying to use those events to convince multichannel video programming distributors their stations’ content is worth what they’re asking in retransmission fees. The latest case of this comes ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII, with a Cox Media Group-DirecTV dispute.
As discussed here in late January before the dispute actually kicked in, this is about the 12 local broadcast affiliates owned by Cox Media Group. (Despite its name, that group is actually only minority-owned by cable and internet company Cox Enterprises; the majority 71 percent share is held by private equity firm Apollo Global, one of their many sports investments ). Last week, those networks went off DirecTV, U-verse, and DirecTV Stream (the combined DTV unit AT&T spun off in 2021, which is 70 percent owned by AT&T and 30 percent owned by private equity firm TPG) thanks to a carriage dispute, with both sides putting out statements blaming each other.
That dispute was still unresolved as of Saturday morning. And that has potential impacts on Sunday’s Super Bowl (which has its main broadcast on CBS) for those in the Seattle and Dayton, OH areas, as those are the two CBS affiliates owned by CMG. (CMG also lists a Jacksonville one on its website, and that’s in its list of stations on Wikipedia. But that station is owned by Hoffman Communications and managed by Cox, and CMG told Phillip Swann of TVAnswerMan.com it is not affected.)
This CMG-DTV is in addition to a DTV dispute with Mission Broadcasting and White Knight-owned and Nexstar-managed local affiliates that has been running since October 2022. That impacts more than 25 stations overall, including CBS affiliates in Springfield, MO and Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Amazingly, this is the second dispute in three years between CMG and DTV ahead of a Super Bowl on CBS, although the 2021 one was resolved by kickoff. Of course, there are other ways to watch the Super Bowl. DirecTV noted some of those in on-screen messages for affected customers Saturday. Here’s one from the Dayton area:
Yes, the Nickelodeon alternate cast is definitely an option (but it will be very different, with SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick Star in the commentary booth alongside Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson). And yes, the main CBS coverage can be streamed on Paramount+ for those who have that, with plans there starting at $5.99 or $11.99 a month. As CBS is a broadcast network, its coverage can also be accessed with an antenna. And there is the Univision feed in Spanish. (And that’s to say nothing of the options around switching to a different MVPD that does have a deal with these Cox stations.)
But this still has the potential to be at least an inconvenience for those in these cities who are used to accessing their local CBS feed through MVPD bundles from DirecTV. And it seems like there will be further impacts here for those looking to watch the game in 4K: DirecTV is one MVPD that had confirmed they’ll show the Super Bowl on special 4K channels, but the Paramount+ stream will not be offered in 4K.
DirecTV is offering one-time $10 credits to affected customers who apply. But there’s still the potential for a lot of annoyance here, especially for people who don’t realize that their local CBS affiliate won’t be on their TV package until close to the game. Yet, carriage disputes around these kinds of big sports events do sometimes see deals reached just before kickoff. We’ll see if that happens here or not.