Cox, Emmis in Omaha HD Dispute


In a spat between a distributor and programmer that wasn’t resolved, CBS affiliate KMTV in Omaha, Neb., planned to pull its HDTV signal from Cox Communications Inc.’s system in that market.

The station, owned by Emmis Communications Corp., is seeking compensation from the cable operator for its HDTV signal. Without that feed, Cox subscribers in that DMA will not be able to view the Super Bowl in HDTV.

The two parties have been negotiating for nearly one year over carriage of the station’s HDTV signal. The broadcaster wants to be compensated by Cox, which is refusing.

"We have not resolved it, and we have every intention of withdrawing permission for them to carry our HD signal [effective Dec. 31]," KMTV general manager Jim McKernan said.

"The issue is compensation, and we’re not going to compromise on that," he added. "Our feeling is that after a $3 million investment to build a digital-broadcasting facility in Omaha, with more expense to come from the standpoint of being able to originate local programming in high-definition, we should be compensated for that."

Cox’s position is that it offers a tier of 10 HD networks free-of-charge to its digital customers and, therefore, it should not have to compensate KMTV or anyone else for their HD signals.

"Our position is that it’s just ridiculous for us to be charged an extra fee when we help to deliver their signal," Cox spokesman Bobby Amirshahi said, adding that Cox has long-term deals with all of the other HD providers in Omaha and it is not paying any of them.

KMTV doesn’t buy Cox’s argument. Cox has been running a promotional campaign that is "basically using ABC, CBS and NBC programming as the hook for them to upsell people to their digital tier," according to McKernan.

"For them to say they’re not profiting from that is ludicrous," he added. "For us to be used as a hook with no compensation is just a position that we cannot agree with."