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Dish drops several Cox Media local stations

A Dish Network satellite dish.
A Dish Network satellite dish. (Photo by Cody Logan via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Dish Network pulled several local broadcast stations owned and operated by Cox Media Group on Monday.

The blackout came after Dish and Cox Media were unable to reach an agreement on financial terms for continued carriage of the channels, the satellite company said in a statement.

According to Dish, Cox Media is demanding higher fees in exchange for the right to provide those channels to Dish’s satellite TV customers.

“The broadcaster is using customers as negotiation leverage, demanding a massive fee increase and holding viewers hostage,” a Dish spokesperson said in a statement.

Dish said Cox Media is “trying to negotiate for stations it does not own yet,” though it wasn’t clear which stations those were.

“Cox’s refusal to negotiate in good faith and subsequently forcing a blackout of its stations for DISH customers is deplorable,” Brian Neylon, the group president of Dish, said on Monday. “Cox is demanding an exorbitant rate increase, negotiating for channels it does not yet own and insists on payment from customers who do not subscribe to local broadcasting, even as it continues to underinvest in local programming. Broadcasters like Cox put profits ahead of the public interests they are supposed to serve, even when its viewership has declined for years.”

The stations affected by the dispute between Dish and Cox Media are:

  • WSB-TV (Channel 2, ABC) in Atlanta
  • WFXT (Channel 25, Fox) in Boston
  • KIRO (Channel 7, CBS) in Seattle
  • WPXI (Channel 11, NBC) in Pittsburgh
  • WFOX (Channel 30, Fox) in Jacksonville
  • WJAX (Channel 47, CBS) in Jacksonville
  • WFTV (Channel 9, ABC) in Orlando
  • WRDQ (Channel 27) in Orlando
  • KLSR (Channel 34, Fox) in Eugene, Oregon
  • KEVU (Channel 23, MyNetwork) in Eugene, Oregon
  • WHIO (Channel 7, CBS) in Dayton, Ohio
  • WSOC (Channel 9, ABC) in Charlotte
  • WAXN (Channel 64) in Charlotte

Dish said its data showed viewership on Cox-owned stations “has significantly declined” on the satellite platform over the last few years, “indicating that many viewers have moved to other channels for their entertainment and news.”

“With its decreased viewership, Cox is attempting to recoup its losses by demanding increased rates of nearly 75 percent from Dish customers,” a spokesperson for the company said.

The carriage dispute between Dish and Cox Media comes as broadcasters are reporting affiliate and carriage fee revenues have surpassed its traditional advertising revenue. It is not clear if the same business trend extends to Cox Media; the company is owned by investment firm Apollo Global Management, which does not typically break out revenue from its television business.

While carriage disputes have grown common over the last few years, Cox Media has been particularly aggressive in demanding more money from cable and satellite providers over the last few years. Its last dispute with Dish Network was just two years ago, when the company pulled its local broadcast stations from the satellite platform for five months.

Dish subscribers who live in areas with a Cox Media-owned broadcast station have a few options to continue receiving their local stations. The cheapest option is to buy an over-the-air antenna and plug it into the antenna jack of the TV set; in most areas, that’s the only equipment needed to pick up free, local broadcast stations like those owned by Cox Media.

Viewers who live in areas whre a TV signal is hard to get have a number of streaming options to receive local broadcast stations, including Vidgo (which carries ABC, Fox and other 100 live cable channels), YouTube TV and Fubo TV.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).