Altice USA’s Optimum TV customers in Connecticut could be without CBS-affiliate WFSB if a retransmission consent deal can’t be reached by Jan. 13, the parties warned customers Sunday night.
Optimum and WFSB have been down this road before. The station, owned by Des Moines, Ia.-based Meredith Corp., went dark to Optimum predecessor Cablevision Systems for two weeks in January 2014 over a similar spat. WFSB is one of two CBS affiliates serving Connecticut. The other is WCBS in New York. The source of the 2014 spat was WFSB’s desire to offer its signal to Fairfield County in addition to Litchfield and New Haven counties, which Cablevision objected to at the onset. When a deal was reached later that month, Cablevision agreed to offer the channel to its Fairfield County customers at no fee.
Apparently, the channel wants to be paid for those Fairfield County customers now and also is asking for a 300% rate increase, according to Altice USA.
“We want to carry WFSB Channel 3 at a reasonable rate and have already offered them an increase in retransmission fees,” Alice USA said in a statement. “However, Meredith Corporation, the media conglomerate that owns CBS affiliate WFSB Channel 3, is threatening to pull its station from our Optimum lineups in Connecticut in an attempt to force us and our customers to pay even more -- an outrageous nearly 300 percent increase in fees for the exact same programming they currently deliver.
"Skyrocketing programming costs, particularly those charged by broadcasters, are the greatest contributor to rising cable bills, and we are working hard to keep those costs as low as possible for our customers,” Altce USA continued. “This behavior is anti-consumer, and we urge Meredith Corp. to stop the threats and leave WFSB on while we negotiate an agreement that is fair for our Connecticut Optimum customers.”
On its website, WFSB claims it has been negotiating with Altice USA for months to no avail. It added that if it cannot reach a retrans deal, the station will go dark to Altice USA customers in the are at 5 p.m. on Jan. 13.
“Without fair and equitable treatment, local TV stations will not be able to continue to provide top quality news, sports, entertainment, and other local programming that is most important to you,” WFSB said on its website.
Altice claims the number of its Connecticut customers that watch WFSB has “consistently declined” over the years. And in the event of a blackout, the “overwhelming majority” of its Connecticut customers will still have access to CBS programming via WCBS.
Optimum has set up a website for customers seeking more details at www.optimum.net/onyourside .