Buzzer Beaten With Retrans Renewals

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The latest round of retransmission consent
battles closed out 2011 with a whimper instead
of a bang, with major distributors hammering out several
deals by the Dec. 31 deadline.

Time Warner Cable, which still has not reached a deal with
Corpus Christi, Texas, stations KRIS (NBC) and KAJA (Telemundo)
— they went dark on Dec. 13 — managed to make a
deal with Dispatch Broadcast Group’s WBNS in Columbus,
Ohio, agreeing to carry the CBS broadcast affiliate as well
as two digital channels,
the Ohio News Network
statewide and Doppler 10
Now, a 24-hour weather
channel, in the local market.
The agreement also
covered Dispatch’s NBC
affiliate in Indianapolis,
WTHR, on Bright House
Cable in that market.

On the telco side, Verizon
avoided a blackout in
Providence, R.I., and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., reaching a
deal with Media General on Dec. 30. DirecTV inked a deal
with Morris Network for six stations in six southern markets
on Dec. 29.

With few large markets up for renewal, some analysts
believed that a typically contentious retrans climate would
be relatively free of the vitriol that often characterizes negotiations.
But they also feared that, with this being the
first cycle where so-called reverse compensation would
be included — basically, a portion of retrans fees that
stations must pay to their affiliated broadcast network —
some talks could get heated.

Miller Tabak media analyst David
Joyce said the lack of negotiating fire
could have been the result of several
factors: Stations realizing it wasn’t
worth the extra effort to get a smaller
portion of their normal retrans haul,
the chance of increased scrutiny from
Washington, and the networks themselves,
which have said they would
like to negotiate affiliate retrans deals,
may have smoothed the process.

To that end, the nastiest battle
seems to be in tiny Casper, Wyo., where three stations
— KTWO (ABC), KGWC (CBS) and KFNB (Fox), owned by
Silverton Broadcasting, Wyomedia and Mark III Media, respectively
— went dark on Dish Network on Dec. 31.

Dish contends the stations have made “outrageous” demands
for rate increases and have rebuffed its attempts for
an extension or for further negotiations.

Mark III Media secretary and treasurer Mark Nalbone
said the station group had tried to negotiate with Dish in
September, but talks didn’t start until New Year’s Eve and
abruptly ended.

Nalbone pointed out that the stations have not increased
rates in three years and that the proposed charge is equal to
about 1% of the average Dish customer’s monthly bill.

In the meantime, Dish managed to complete several deals
by the Dec. 31 deadline, including 10 stations across the country
owned by Young Broadcasting and three stations in the
Columbus/Tupelo, Miss., market after they had been dark for
about 24 hours. Dish avoided a blackout in Ft. Myers, Fla., and
Charlottesville, Va., reaching deals with four channels owned
by Waterman Broadcasting and Montclair Communications.

Suddenlink Communications finished a flurry of deals
on Dec. 30, for three stations owned by Hoak Media in Louisiana
and Arkansas and four Meredith stations in Arizona,
Missouri and Tennessee. Negotiations for Newport Television’s
10 stations in six states are ongoing. Suddenlink
received an extension of its existing deal on Dec. 31 and said
it hoped a deal could be reached soon.