Cablevision, WFSB Reach Retrans Deal

Station Available to Fairfield, Litchfield and New Haven Counties Customers
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Cablevision Systems and Connecticut broadcaster WFSB ended their two-week old impasse, reaching a retransmission consent agreement Saturday night that will return the CBS affiliate to its customers in Litchfield, New Haven and Fairfield counties.

WFSB went dark to Cablevision customers in Litchfield and New Haven on Jan. 3. At the heart of the disagreement was Cablevision’s claim that the station was demanding carriage and payment in neighboring Fairfield County, which is currently served by New York CBS affiliate, WCBS.

The deal ends what was at times a contentious negotiation – Cablevision filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission on Friday claiming WFSB was not negotiating in good faith, a claim the station denied.

Although Cablevision would not comment sources familiar with the situation said the operator is likely to drop its FCC complaint.

This is the third retransmission consent dispute the Bethpage, N.Y.-based operator has had to endure in about three years. And though terms of those deals were never revealed – the 2010 blackout of Fox’s WNYW Channel 5 in New York that cause customers to miss Major League Baseball’s World Series; the 2010 impasse with New York ABC station WABC that blacked out the first 15 minutes of the Academy Awards; and last year’s  dispute with Tribune’s WPIX Channel 11 in New York and its Connecticut Fox affiliate WTIC – it appears that the operator has fared better with each deal.

The most recent agreement comes just in time for Connecticut customers to watch the Sunday National Football League AFC Championship game between local favorite The New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos.

Although terms of the agreement were not disclosed, it appears that the compromise includes carriage in Fairfield County without a fee.

“Our agreement ensures that all Cablevision customers in Connecticut will receive CBS programming and we are pleased that no Cablevision customer will pay twice for the same network,” Cablevision said in its statement. “We sincerely thank our customers for their patience during this process.”

WFSB, owned by Meredith Corp., issued a brief statement on its web site.

“WFSB Channel 3 is happy to announce that a deal has been reached with Cablevision Optimum TV,” the station said. “WFSB has been restored for Cablevision Optimum customers. We at WFSB understand this was a frustrating circumstance for our viewers that are Cablevision customers and we thank you for your overwhelming support during this matter.”

The retrans impasse had featured two complaints by Cablevision against the broadcaster at the FCC, one seeking to block Meredith's purchase of KMOV St. Louis and the other, filed late last week,  alleging the broadcaster was not negotiating in good faith. Meredith had countered that it was Cablevision that was not negotiating in good faith. Cablevision had no comment, but look for it to drop both complaints as part of the deal, which is generally the case for complaints lodged during retrans fights.