Back in September, No. 3-ranked women’s tennis star Coco Gauff was competing in the U.S. Open. Between matches of the Grand Slam she would eventually win, Gauff wanted to watch her competitors from her hotel room.
Except she couldn’t because ESPN wasn’t available in her hotel room. ESPN’s parent company, Disney, was having a dispute with the cable company Spectrum about the contract for the cable network to air Disney-owned channels.
The problem was obviously massive — the US Open is one of the most-watched events in America. But what loomed was worse: The NFL season was starting just days later, and idea that millions of Americans would not have access to some games or need to purchase a new service was a recipe for disaster.
Disney and Spectrum solved the blackout in time for ESPN’s first NFL game of the season — but it was a sign that these blackouts were becoming prevalent, and affecting some of the biggest broadcasters, given the shifting landscape of media due to the entry of streaming.
That leads to this point, less than two weeks away from the Super Bowl, the country’s most-watched live event every year, and the chance for a dispute between DirecTV and Cox Media Group that could keep the Super Bowl out of the households of many Americans.
Several reports on Jan. 26 said that the two sides are at odds on the renewal of a new transmission deal. Cox Media, which carries 14 local channels of ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS, in nine markets, could be blacked out as early as midnight on Feb 2.
The nine markets include Atlanta, Boston, and Pittsburgh, though the three markets that are CBS-affiliates, the network airing this year’s Super Bowl, are Dayton, Ohio; Jacksonville, Fla., and Seattle-Tacoma.
Cox put out a press release on Jan. 25 saying that DirecTV is trying to “harm local journalism” with its proposed deal.
But a spokesperson from DirecTV responded to Cox’s statement by telling Cord Cutter News on Jan. 26 that they are looking for a fair deal.
“Our request to Cox Media Group is simple, don’t force your viewers who are our customers, to pay an unwarranted rate increase for ‘free’ news, sports and entertainment that is widely available on local station websites,” the spokesperson told Cord Cutter News.