When Private Equity Collides with Public Interest: Unpacking the Audacious Apollo, Cox Super Bowl Blackout

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) released the following statement Thursday further unpacking an audacious Apollo Global Management and Cox Media Group blackout which aims to cause maximum disruption and pain to consumers in five media markets and hold the Super Bowl hostage in order to extract exorbitant fees.

“Apollo Global Management, a mammoth New York private equity fund, has pulled its Cox Media Group subsidiary’s local broadcast stations from AT&T — less than a week before the Super Bowl,” said ATVA spokeswoman Jessica Kendust. “This means AT&T customers in a great NFL city like Seattle or football- mad Dayton, Ohio risk missing the biggest game of the year.”

“But it gets worse — In some cities like Yuma, Arizona and Eureka, California, Apollo controls multiple Big Four network affiliations, while in Greenville, Mississippi Apollo controls all four national broadcast network feeds,” Kendust said. “So, with the flick of a switch, Apollo has not only cut off all national network programming to AT&T subscribers in the Greenville market, but also most local TV news in the midst of a public health crisis in one of the 15 states with the most confirmed COVID cases per residents.

“This is a particularly brazen assault on consumers and profiteering that defies any reconciliation with broadcast industry promises to avoid service interruptions during the pandemic and vacuous claims that even the largest broadcasters, like Apollo needed stimulus funds to ‘preserve local news,’” Kendust added. “We urge the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to prevent this sort of local consolidation and concentration of power, but pay-me-now players like Apollo have exploited every loophole and lobbied hard to eliminate any accountability whatsoever.”

“Apollo’s out-and-out price-gouging shows why these rules must be protected, strengthened and actually enforced to eliminate a stampede of greed at American consumers’ expense,” Kendust added.

In March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was escalating in the United States, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President Gordon Smith acknowledged the industry had a public interest duty to limit retransmission blackouts during the public health crisis:

“I don’t speak for every individual company and their economic decision, I know I have heard on calls with our executive committee and individual members that they recognize the public responsibility to not have service interruptions during this time… As has been the case whenever there is a national emergency, broadcasters don’t want to see service interruptions of any kind.“

Those comments didn’t age well given there were a record-breaking number of retransmission blackouts in 2020 — more than in 2019 — and that Big Broadcast is already continuing to brazenly wield blackouts at the start of 2021 – as the pandemic continues.

Read more on the ongoing Cox Media Group and Apollo Global Management blackouts HERE. Read more on big broadcasters’ claims to need COVID-19 stimulus relief to serve consumers HERE.

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

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