Retrans Battles Offer Summer Fireworks


The retransmisson-consent fireworks continued
to rage last week, with satellite giant Dish Network
locked in a heated battle in West Virginia and other distributors
negotiating feverishly as extension deadlines
drew near.

Dish, which dropped the AMC Networks stable of cable
channels on June 30, is in a brawl over four broadcast stations
owned by West Virginia Media Holdings. Dish, which
has taken an aggressive stance against what it calls excessive
retrans increases, said in a statement that the stations
— WBOY in Clarksburg, WOWK in Charleston, WVMS in
Bluefield and WTRF in Wheeling — have demanded a 200%
increase in rates.

Dish claims that it offered to continue carrying the stations
past the July 1 deadline, in light of the devastating
storms in the Mid-Atlantic states over that period, but
West Virginia Media declined. Instead, West Virginia Media
raised its price demand, Dish vice president of programming
Andrew LeCuyer said.

West Virginia Media CEO Bray Cary declined to comment.

“We will not comment on ongoing negotiations,” Cary
said in an email response.

More than 4.3 million homes in the Mid-Atlantic region
were without power and at least 26 people were killed as a
result of storms that swept the region June 29. In West Virginia,
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency
after the storms left 500,000 residents in 27 counties in the
state without power.

West Virginia Media has claimed on its station websites
that it is only asking for two to three cents per day from
Dish, and that the money goes directly to its stations “in
order to support the quality of our entertainment, news
and sports programming.”

Dish’s LeCuyer said he was hopeful that a deal could
be reached, but expressed some doubt that a resolution
would come soon.

“I always hope for a quick resolution,” LeCuyer said. “But
that requires the other side, in this case West Virginia Media,
to engage in a productive manner. To date, they haven’t.”

Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable said it continued to negotiate
with Hearst Broadcasting on Friday (July 6) and expected
talks to go into the weekend. The two sides hoped
to hammer out a deal before July 9, the final day of a oneweek
extension the broadcaster granted in the prior week.
Hearst stations in Honolulu (KITV), Milwaukee (WISN),
New Hampshire (WMUR), Pittsburgh (WTAE) and
Greensboro (WXII) were originally set to go dark on July 1.

Also, DirecTV was still negotiating with Northwest
Broadcasting as the week closed. Northwest had been
granting DirecTV monthly extensions from an agreement
that expired in January of 2011, but in late June began notifying
DirecTV customers that they could lose the stations
if a deal wasn’t reached by July 1. Northwest, which
owns stations in Binghamton, N.Y. (WICZ and WBPN);
Medford and Klamath Falls, Ore.; (KMVU); Spokane,
Wash. (KAYU); Yakima, Wash. (KFFX); and Laredo, Texas
(KVTV), granted DirecTV an extension through July 31, according
to DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer.