Retrans Rows Down to the Wire


Several retransmission-consent disputes are simmering across the country, with the largest one possibly depriving more than 100,000 cable subscribers in Texas of their chance to watch the home-state Texas Longhorns in college football’s Rose Bowl.

Three cable operators -- Time Warner Cable, Cable One Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. -- may all be forced to drop KIII, an ABC affiliate in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Dec. 31 as part of a retransmission-consent squabble with the station, owned by McKinnon Broadcasting.

The three operators are balking at paying KIII cash for carriage. Time Warner, which has about 110,000 customers in the market, claims the broadcaster is seeking what would add up to $500,000 to continue carrying the station.

KIII has threatened to pull its signal from all three operators if a new retransmission-consent pact isn’t reached by Dec. 31, when the old deals are up. In fact, similar deals across the country are set to expire at years-end, as well.

Time Warner spokesman Keith Cocozza said Tuesday that the cable operator is “hopeful” that its subscribers won’t lose KIII and its programming. But just in case the system, which is also handing out A/B switches, is setting up four “viewing parties,” where Time Warner subscribers will be able to go Jan. 4 to watch the Rose Bowl, which pits the University of Texas against the University of Southern California.

Charter has about 10,000 subscribers in Corpus Christi, while Cable One has roughly 6,000.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith and remain confident that we'll come to reasonable terms,” Charter spokesman Dave Andersen said.

Cable One also said it is in talks with KIII.

In addition to the situation in Texas, Cable One is balking at paying cash to continue carrying a Gannett Broadcasting station, NBC affiliate KPNX in Phoenix. The cable operator uplinks the station to communities in central and northern Arizona at a cost of $1 million per year.

Gannett is also involved in a retransmission-consent beef with a 6,000-subscriber operator in Georgia, Kingsland Cable TV of Kingsland, Ga. Gannett is demanding Kingsland pay a license fee of 35 cents per month, per subscriber for each of its two TV stations, WTLV and WJXX, according to the system’s owner, Don Trednick.

A Gannett spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday.

Bresnan Communications and WyoMedia Corp. are in talks to reach a retransmission-consent pact before Dec. 31, or the operator may lose broadcast signals. That situation involves several stations in Wyoming --KGWC, a CBS affiliate in Casper-Riverton; KGWL, a CBS affiliate in Lander; and KTWO, an ABC affiliate in Casper-Riverton -- with the cable operator refusing to pay a 12-cent license fee to the broadcaster.

“We’re continuing to negotiate,” said Steve Brookstein, Bresnan’s executive vice president of operations. “We’re optimistic.”

The broadcaster offered to let Bresnan carry its stations free for a year, according to WyoMedia general manager Mark Nalbone.

But Brookstein said that offer was contingent on the operator withdrawing a complaint that it filed with the Federal Communications Commission about the alleged cross-ownership of a number of Wyoming stations.