The flap between Mediacom Communications and Sinclair Broadcast Group escalated Friday after the cable operator filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, alleging that Sinclair violated antitrust laws in seeking cash for retransmission consent.
Mediacom first revealed the dispute with Sinclair in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Sept. 28 (www.multichannel.com/article/CA6376741.html), when it said that although it was still in negotiations with Sinclair regarding retransmission consent for stations that covered one-half of its 1.4 million-subscriber footprint, the broadcaster’s price was still too high
According to the suit, filed Thursday, Mediacom and Sinclair have been in negotiations since Oct. 19, 2005. But recently, the negotiations shifted when Sinclair apparently tried to get its stations affiliated with the fledgling CW and MyNetwork TV networks included in the deal.
Mediacom, according to the suit, is willing to pay for Sinclair stations affiliated with the four largest broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox), but it does not want to pay for the other less-watched stations.
According to the suit, Mediacom said it was not interested in carrying the CW and MyNetwork TV stations because “there is little demand for these stations among its subscribers and it could find other higher-value uses for those channel slots.”
Sinclair has about 13 major network stations and nine CW and MyNetwork TV affiliates in Mediacom’s footprint. The major broadcast stations are in areas like St. Louis; Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Lexington, Ky. The CW and MyNetwork TV stations are in areas such as Minneapolis; Milwaukee; Nashville, Tenn.; and Paducah, Ky.
On Sept. 28, Sinclair notified Mediacom that it had revoked the cable operator’s right to carry all of its stations effective midnight Nov. 30.
Mediacom said in a prepared statement that Sinclair’s demands could cost its cable customers millions of dollars. “It is not fair to our customers who ultimately bear these costs, and we have decided to draw the line by asking a federal court to stop these practices by Sinclair,” Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso said in the statement.
Sinclair vice president and general counsel Barry Faber did not return a phone call seeking comment.