Apollo cuts DISH customer access to local stations in 10 markets (1 Viewer)

Scott Greczkowski

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Apollo cuts DISH customer access to local stations in 10 markets;

Court bars Apollo from additional threatened blackouts



  • Apollo’s recently purchased Northwest Broadcasting stations dark on DISH as contract expires
  • Illinois Circuit Court issues Temporary Restraining Order against Apollo, preserving DISH customer access to 14 former Cox stations in 10 additional markets
  • Apollo blacks out stations heading into NFL conference championship weekend
  • Apollo rejects DISH extension offer to keep channels available to customers through NFL playoffs and Super Bowl


ENGLEWOOD, Colo., January 18, 2020 – International private equity firm, Apollo Global Management, tonight blacked out DISH customers’ access to local channels in 10 markets, across nine states. Earlier this week, an Illinois court issued a temporary restraining order against Apollo, blocking it from blacking out 14 stations it acquired from Cox Media Group less than a month ago.



Apollo also rejected DISH’s offer to extend the current contract, with payment, to keep the channels available to customers through NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl.



Two issues are at stake:

  • Apollo is demanding nearly double the fees DISH pays to provide customers access to the former Northwest Broadcasting channels Apollo acquired last year.
  • Apollo is attempting to negate the March 31, 2019 retransmission contract between DISH and 14 former Cox Stations, also acquired by Apollo in 2019.


This is the second major blackout Northwest has initiated in the past year, blacking out its channels on DirecTV for eight months in 2019.



Apollo is a private equity investment company, managing assets of more than $300 billion.



“Apollo doesn’t care how high a customer’s bill gets. It's trying to squeeze every last penny out of consumers to recoup the billions it spent buying these stations,” said Andy LeCuyer, DISH senior vice president of Programming. “They are fund managers built to serve wealthy private investors, not local viewers. For Apollo it’s about a number. For DISH it’s about customers.”



DISH was granted a temporary restraining order by the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, to prevent Apollo from blacking out 14 local Cox channels.



“Apollo’s attempt to rip up an existing multiyear contract with DISH that was signed just last spring is like a bank taking over a mortgage and then increasing the homeowner’s monthly payment,” said Andy LeCuyer, DISH senior vice president of Programming.



In exchange for using the public airwaves, broadcasters provide their channels for free, accessible with a digital over-the-air antenna; however, pay-TV companies are required to pay broadcasters to provide those same channels to their customers. If the two parties do not reach an agreement, the pay-TV provider must stop delivering those stations.



More information on this FCC-mandated process is available here: Retransmission Consent



As consumers enter the NFL conference championship weekend, Apollo blacked out the stations, using its own viewers as leverage.



“Apollo intentionally delayed negotiations and purposely chose NFL Championship weekend to remove its channels, to inflict maximum pain for consumers. The channels could come back today if Apollo would give us the green light,” added LeCuyer. “On behalf of customers, we ask Apollo to stop punishing its own viewers so we can focus on reaching a fair deal.”



Affected DISH customers can view NFL games using an over-the-air antenna or stream local and most primetime games for free on mobile phones and tablets as announced by the NFL.



Free Antenna Installation, Seamless Integration



As DISH works to reach an agreement, the company is offering free digital over-the-air antennas and free installation to qualified DISH customers in the affected markets. Customers who use a digital antenna are able to access news, sports and popular network shows, and have the option to completely drop local channels from their programming package to save $12 on their monthly bill.



DISH will install an antenna for qualifying customers in affected markets based on the expected reception available at their home. Local station availability over the air is dependent on geographic location and topography. Consequently, some customer locations may not qualify for an antenna installation.



“A digital antenna is a great experience and solution for a growing number of customers,” continued LeCuyer. “The channels integrate seamlessly into the Hopper interface. Plus, switching to antenna-delivered locals can unlock $144 savings annually. We want to give customers the choice to save money.”



Price of Local Channels Soars



Each year, the cost to carry local broadcast stations rises far beyond the rate of inflation, leading to blackouts across the country that affect millions of subscribers of various pay-TV companies. According to Kagan, a leading source on the media industry, broadcast fees burdening pay-TV consumers are expected to reach an unprecedented $16.3 billion in 2024. These same rates, for channels available free over the air, were as low as $215 million in 2006. Between 2006 and 2019, retransmission consent fees have risen 5,359 percent, with an average annual increase of 37 percent across the pay-TV industry. The cost to deliver local channels is the fastest growing part of consumers’ monthly pay-TV bills.



Along with other pay-TV companies, independent programmers and public interest groups that form the American Television Alliance, DISH has called for the U.S. Congress to revamp the out-of-date laws that favor these high fees and unnecessary blackouts.



Affected Stations

Apollo’s action affects viewers of various ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and MyNetworkTV (MNT) stations in the following markets:



  • KLAX-TV, Channel 31, (ABC, Alexandria, La.)
  • WICZ-TV, Channel 40 (FOX, Binghamton, N.Y.)
  • WBPN, Channel 8 (MNT, Binghamton, N.Y.)
  • KIEM-TV, Channel 3 (NBC, Eureka, Calif.)
  • KVIQ-TV, Channel 17 (CBS, Eureka, Calif.)
  • WABG-TV, Channel 6 (ABC, Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.)
  • WABGD-TV, Channel 10 (FOX, Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.)
  • WNBD-TV, Channel 33 (NBC, Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.)
  • WXVT-TV, Channel 15 (CBS, Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.)
  • KPVI-TV, Channel 6 (NBC, Idaho Falls-Pocatello, Idaho)
  • KMVU-TV, Channel 26 (FOX, Medford-Klamath Falls, Ore.)
  • KFBI-TV, Channel 48 (MNT, Medford-Klamath Falls, Ore.)
  • KAYU-TV, Channel 28 (FOX, Spokane, Wash.)
  • WSYT-TV, Channel 68 (FOX, Syracuse, N.Y.)
  • WNYS-TV, Channel 43 (MNT, Syracuse, N.Y.)
  • KCYU-TV, Channel 41 (FOX, Yakima-Pasco-Richland-Kennewick, Wash.)
  • KSWT-TV, Channel 13 (CBS, Yuma AZ - El Centro, Calif.)
  • KYMA-TV, Channel 11 (NBC, Yuma AZ - El Centro, Calif.)
DISH customers can visit DISHPromise.com for more information or view a video with answers to Frequently Asked Questions with Andy LeCuyer, DISH senior vice president of Programming.
 

mwdxer1

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Nov 3, 2015
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I don't understand why the big deal? Aren't the locals now sold separately for $12? Dish should look at each market on what they are paying and just charge accordingly. If Apollo wants more, instead of $12 for that market, charge $15? If the customer complains, give them Apollo's phone number.
 
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david_jr

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This is, of course, an outrage. No doubt more to come. At this rate no satellite company will be able to carry locals at some point. I could see the Sat companies letting its customers make their own deal for locals, they'll provide them AFTER you broker the deal with the owner.
 

mwdxer1

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Nov 3, 2015
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This is, of course, an outrage. No doubt more to come. At this rate no satellite company will be able to carry locals at some point. I could see the Sat companies letting its customers make their own deal for locals, they'll provide them AFTER you broker the deal with the owner.

I totally agree, or the price for locals will just increase as they have been doing. Let the subscriber make the decision if they want to pay for locals. Dish will in time have to just raise the price. They probably will just make all markets the same, but they could either raise the price on certain markets or on certain stations. There is no reason for satellite/cable to drop locals. Just pay the piper and increase the cost to the subscriber. These fights all of the time just tick off the subscriber. I think many would rather have their bills go up a bit more and they can keep their programming.
 

sam_gordon

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I totally agree, or the price for locals will just increase as they have been doing. Let the subscriber make the decision if they want to pay for locals. Dish will in time have to just raise the price. They probably will just make all markets the same, but they could either raise the price on certain markets or on certain stations. There is no reason for satellite/cable to drop locals. Just pay the piper and increase the cost to the subscriber. These fights all of the time just tick off the subscriber. I think many would rather have their bills go up a bit more and they can keep their programming.
Isn't that what Dish is doing now? Anyone can drop locals.
 

HawksFan74

Well-Known SatelliteGuys Member
Oct 26, 2017
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North Idaho
Anyone know how the free antenna offer works? Do I have to wait for an email from Dish, or do I contact them? What type of antenna do they install? About a year ago, I purchased the RCA indoor antenna & OTA adapter directly from Dish, but had too many problems with it (Joey would freeze up and need to be restarted frequently; couldn't get consistent reception of all 4 major networks full time). The channel that I have the hardest time picking up consistently just happens to be an Apollo-owned station (FOX 28 Spokane). I'm about 20 miles from the tower, so I feel like a decent antenna should be able to pick it up.
 

sam_gordon

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Anyone know how the free antenna offer works? Do I have to wait for an email from Dish, or do I contact them? What type of antenna do they install? About a year ago, I purchased the RCA indoor antenna & OTA adapter directly from Dish, but had too many problems with it (Joey would freeze up and need to be restarted frequently; couldn't get consistent reception of all 4 major networks full time). The channel that I have the hardest time picking up consistently just happens to be an Apollo-owned station (FOX 28 Spokane). I'm about 20 miles from the tower, so I feel like a decent antenna should be able to pick it up.
I think Dish uses rabbitears or TVfool website to see if there's a good chance that you'd get reception. I would not expect an indoor antenna to work out to 20 miles. BUT, just because you get an outdoor antenna doesn't mean you have to mount it outdoor. It can go in an attic.
 
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The Fat Man

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Sorry to those affected. I'm glad the court told Appollo to take a hike with the Cox stations. At least stupidity wasn't able to reign supreme. Anyone one of us with a satellite tv, cable tv, or cellphone contract, try telling the company that you're selling your service to someone else, so the contract is now nell and void. Let's see how fast they say no. How about next time a new bank buys out your loan. Tell the new bank that because of the sale, the contract is now voided. See how fast that doesn't go over.

Now I do have an interest in the situation as my local FOX is a former Cox station, covered under that contract. Still, that was still a stupid move by Appollo, logically speaking.
 

kofi123

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Apr 13, 2014
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  • WABG-TV, Channel 6 (ABC, Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.)
  • WABGD-TV, Channel 10 (FOX, Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.)
  • WNBD-TV, Channel 33 (NBC, Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.)
  • WXVT-TV, Channel 15 (CBS, Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.)
How is this legal?

WNBD and WXVT are technically low-power digital stations (actual call signs are WNBD-LD and WXVT-LD) and low-power stations don't count toward FCC ownership rules. The Fox affiliation is on a subchannel of WABG, and subchannels don't count either. Thus, this is a legal way for one company to own and operate the affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in a single market.
 

sam_gordon

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WNBD and WXVT are technically low-power digital stations (actual call signs are WNBD-LD and WXVT-LD) and low-power stations don't count toward FCC ownership rules. The Fox affiliation is on a subchannel of WABG, and subchannels don't count either. Thus, this is a legal way for one company to own and operate the affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in a single market.
My next question is do they all do newscasts? I don't think the FCC is actually worried about the programming, but "editorial content" being limited to one owner. Just a guess though.

ETA: From the FCC webpage...
Local Television Multiple Ownership
An entity is permitted to own up to two television stations in the same Designated Market Area (DMA) if either:

  • The service areas – known as the digital noise limited service contour – of the stations do not overlap; or
  • At least one of the stations is not ranked among the top-four rated stations in the DMA based on audience share. However, an applicant may seek to make a showing, based on the particular facts and circumstances, that a top-four combination would nonetheless serve the public interest despite the prohibition.
 

dennispap

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My next question is do they all do newscasts? I don't think the FCC is actually worried about the programming, but "editorial content" being limited to one owner. Just a guess though.

ETA: From the FCC webpage...
Local Television Multiple Ownership
An entity is permitted to own up to two television stations in the same Designated Market Area (DMA) if either:

  • The service areas – known as the digital noise limited service contour – of the stations do not overlap; or
  • At least one of the stations is not ranked among the top-four rated stations in the DMA based on audience share. However, an applicant may seek to make a showing, based on the particular facts and circumstances, that a top-four combination would nonetheless serve the public interest despite the prohibition.
Seems to me all 4 of those would be ranked the TOP 4 in the market.
 

DISH HATER

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Jan 21, 2020
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This is getting crazy people, when is the insanity going to stop with these local content providers demanding more and more money for a product which they offer to the public for free if you have an antenna.
 

kofi123

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Apr 13, 2014
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Minnesota
My next question is do they all do newscasts? I don't think the FCC is actually worried about the programming, but "editorial content" being limited to one owner. Just a guess though.

Yes, all four affiliates are combined into a single newsroom and essentially produce a single newscast across all four affiliations.


Again, the thing that makes this legal is that the FCC's multiple ownership rules are blind to subchannels and low-power stations.
 
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Howard Simmons

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WNBD and WXVT are technically low-power digital stations (actual call signs are WNBD-LD and WXVT-LD) and low-power stations don't count toward FCC ownership rules. The Fox affiliation is on a subchannel of WABG, and subchannels don't count either. Thus, this is a legal way for one company to own and operate the affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in a single market.
They do this also in Lima Ohio.:mad:
 

HawksFan74

Well-Known SatelliteGuys Member
Oct 26, 2017
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North Idaho
Just to follow up on my earlier post re: the free antenna, I contacted Dish shortly after I posted here 2 weeks ago. The rep on the phone didn't offer an outdoor antenna installation, but did say he could send me a free indoor antenna and OTA adapter. I said sure, thinking that the new adapter might work better than the one I already bought a little over a year ago.

Well, 2 weeks later, and I haven't received anything, so I contacted Dish via chat this morning and was told that due to high demand, the antenna and/or adapter were out of stock and would be shipped as soon as they were available. I was not given an ETA, so I guess I just have to wait and see.
 

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