Count CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Va., as the latest possible casualty in the retransmission consent wars, as the station faces a Dec. 31 deadline to strike a carriage deal with Cox Communications.
According to reports, WDBJ could go dark at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31 if a retrans deal is not reached. While the station told the Roanoke Times that “talks have not been acrimonious,” the parties have been negotiating for about two months without a deal.
WDBJ is owned by Schurz Communications, a Mishawaka, Ind., broadcaster that owns about 10 stations across the country. If the Roanoke station goes dark for an extended period of time, Cox subscribers in the area could miss out on college football programming and the National Football League playoffs.
On its website, WBDJ said that Cox has not agreed to fairly compensate the stations.
“WBDJ7 is the #1-viewed station on all cable systems in our area and we are discouraged that other stations are compensated while we are not,” WDBJ said on its website.
In a statement issued to the Roanoke Times, Cox spokeswoman Jessica Carver said the cable company is committed to keeping the channels available to its subscribers and is “actively working towards reaching an agreement and avoiding disruption of service to our customers. We do not believe that our customers should be burdened with excessive price increases for a station’s programming that is available for free, over-the-air and often online.”
While Cox and WDBJ are optimistic a deal could be reached, broadcast affiliates continue to fall from Dish Network’s lineup. Dish, which is in a high-profile carriage battle with cable networks Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network (which went dark to the satellite TV giant on Dec. 20) lost access to three Capitol Broadcasting-owned stations in North Carolina on Dec. 22. According to reports, WRAL (CBS) and WRAZ (Fox) in Raleigh, N.C. and WILM (CBS) in Wilmington, N.C. went dark to Dish customers after a previous extension had expired. Dish customers in those areas missed out on several of the last NFL regular season games on CBS and Fox and stand to miss the playoffs if the dispute continues.
On its website (www.keepmylocalstations.com), Capitol Broadcasting claims that the dispute is centered on Dish’s refusal to fairly compensate the stations for their programming. In the past Dish has argued that it is willing to pay fair compensation for stations but that many times broadcasters demand huge fee increases that the satellite service providers does not want to passs on to its customers. The broadcaster didn’t appear optimistic that it would reach an agreement soon.
“The truth is: We don’t know when our stations will be back on Dish,” Capitol said on the website.