Cable One in Retrans Talks

Says Northwest, Hearst stations could go dark Dec. 31
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Cable One said its customers are in danger of losing access to stations owned by Northwest Broadcasting and Hearst Television in its service territory on Dec. 31 if it cannot negotiate successful retransmission consent agreements.

About four stations owned by Northwest Broadcasting in Grenada and Cleveland, Miss. -- WABG (ABC), WABG2 (FOX), WNBD (NBC), and WXVT (CBS) – are scheduled to go dark on Dec. 31 if a deal isn’t reached before the deadline. Cable One claims Northwest is demanding a nearly 100% increase from in rates compared to its previous contract, a higher fee than the cable operator pays any broadcaster in its 40-plus markets. 

“It’s our goal to come to a fair agreement with Northwest Broadcasting by the contract expiration date in order to avoid disruption to our customers,” said Cable One vice president John Gosch in a statement.  “Unfortunately, Northwest currently has a stranglehold on all major network broadcast stations in both Cleveland and Grenada.  This reality makes negotiating with Northwest for a fair deal very difficult and does not lend itself to a positive outcome for our customers.”

According to reports, Northwest says it is making every effort to negotiate a deal with Cable One, pointing to past agreements it has reached with other distributors.

Hearst Television operates in about 16 Cable One markets -- Norfolk, West Point, and South Sioux City, Neb.; Altus, Ponca City, Elk City, Sulphur, and Davis, Okla.; Rio Rancho and Roswell, N.M.; Anniston, Ala.; Diamondhead, Brookhaven, Natchez, McComb, and Yazoo City, Miss. According to Hearst, those areas are covered by six Hearst stations -- Oklahoma City's KOCO-TV (ABC), WVTM-TV (NBC) in Birmingham, Ala.; KOAT-TV (ABC) in Albuquerque; WDSU-TV (NBC) in New Orleans; KETV (ABC) in Omaha; and WAPT-TV (ABC) in Jackson, Miss. Those stations could go dark if a deal is not reached Dec. 31.

“It’s our goal to come to a fair agreement with Hearst by the contract expiration date in order to avoid disruption to our customers,” said Cable One vice president Mitch Bland in a statement.  “Negotiations have been very slow and resolving this negotiation by the deadline at this point appears very unlikely, unfortunately increasing the real chance of disruption to our customers. We will continue to reach out to Hearst with offers that are more than fair in hopes of reaching an equitable agreement for our customers by the deadline.”

Bland said that Hearst Television, too is asking for a rate increase of more than 100% - more than double their previous contract with Cable One.

“Hearst has a long history of successfully concluding carriage agreements with cable companies and other satellite distributors with no disruption of service to subscribers,” Hearst said in a statement on its WBAL TV website Tuesday night.

The broadcaster also is currently in negotiations with DirecTV concerning retransmission consent for its stations in about 28 markets. DirecTV also faces a Dec. 31 deadline for about 14 television stations and one cable channel owned by Cox Media in markets like Atlanta (WSB-TV); Seattle (KIRO-TV); Dayton, Ohio (WHIO-TV); Memphis, Tenn. (WHBQ); Tulsa, Okla. (KOKI-TV); and Jacksonville, Fla. (WFOX-TV).

In a statement on its WFOX-TV website Cox Media said that DirecTV “refuses to recognize the value of our programming,” and has declined to carry its multicast channels (Get TV and Decades) even at no charge.

Bland said in his statement that while Hearst may be more focused on its larger DirecTV negotiations, it hopes that "Cable One customers don’t suffer as result of living in smaller, more rural markets that aren’t as impactful to Hearst’s bottom line.”

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