Nexstar Broadcasting Group stations in nine markets went dark to Cox Communications customers at midnight after the parties could not reach a retransmission consent agreement.
Nexstar had begun warning Cox customers earlier this week that the stations could go dark, adding that it had been in talks with the cable operator for five months without any progress. Cox claimed that Nexstar was demanding rate increases as high as three times the level the stations had received previously, a characterization the broadcaster said was false.
The stations include affiliates of the four major broadcast networks – NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC – which could mean that Cox customers in Las Vegas (which includes CBS affiliate KLAS-TV) and Springfield, Mo. (home of CBS affiliate KOLR); may miss the Feb., 7 broadcast of Super Bowl 50 if a deal is not reached soon.
In a statement Cox said the stations were removed from the lineup, adding “Nexstar has not changed its offer in two weeks and is still demanding three times more for its free over-the-air stations.”
Other affected markets include Baton Rouge and Acadiana, La.; Pittsburg, Kans.; Roanoke, Va.; Ft. Smith and Springdale, Ark. and Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“Cox is ready to negotiate at any time,” the cable operator said in its statement.
Cox has set up a separate website for customers seekiing more information, including alternate viewing options at CoxCommitment.com.
In a statement on its station websites, Nexstar said it is only seeking fair value for its content, adding that Cox routinely pays $8 per subscriber per month for ESPN. The broadcaster said local stations provide 35% of the viewership for cable systems yet receive only 12% of the revenue. While it would not disclose what rate it is seeking, Nexstar said Cox’s claim of a three-fold increase is false.
“To be explicitly clear, Nexstar has offered Cox the same rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it successfully completed negotiations with in December,” Nexstar said in a statement.