Oklahoma customers of AT&T U-verse and Direct TV are awaking to a couple of dead local channels, on New Years Day. Cox Communications owns local TV channels as well as the Cox Cable Systems which brings the broadcast stations into hundreds of thousands of homes who would not otherwise get the signal via antenna.
This cable war changed greatly in 1991, when congress overrode the veto of President GHW Bush. the legislation was a power-grab for broadcasters who were losing massive revenues to cable TV innovators. It required cable systems to carry all local stations within a market. And it required the cable systems to pay a fee for the programming.
Sometimes broadcasters think they deserve more than the minimum royalty and they withhold access to their programming from the cable distributors.
While Direct TV is sattilite, it still is being subjected to many of the same federal mandates. AT&T U-verse uses the phone company's infrastructure, but delivers the digital signals essentially the same way digital "cable" does with a coaxial wire.
Several markets where Cox Communications owns local TV stations are now in a blackout. WSB TV in Atlanta is owned by the Cox group and they are facing the wrath of upset viewers. Essentially, they are leveraging their local stations to demand that their chief competition hand over money.
The move is likely to have some unintended consequences. More people will simp[ly go to Radio Shack and buy a simple antenna. That will lead a segment of the subscribers to drop any pay for signal service. Still others will tap into Roku or other devices. And others will even dump TV watching altogether.
AT& T released this statement in the ongoing negotiations with the Atlanta affiliate, WSB:
Here's a similar story from Broadcasting Cable Magazine.