Some Nets Seek Bucks for Retrans

Author:
Publish date:

Cable operators across the country are busily trying to negotiate
retransmission-consent deals with broadcasters -- some of which are seeking cash
for carriage -- before their current three-year contracts expire at
year-end.

TV stations owned by News Corp.'s Fox and The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC are, in
some cases, seeking license fees of 60 cents to 65 cents per month, per home, in
exchange for retransmission consent, sources said.

Those fees are typically being asked only in cases where operators refuse to
launch cable services owned by Fox or Disney in exchange for
retransmission-consent renewals.

The National Cable Television Cooperative, which represents small and
midsized operators, has fielded dozens of phone calls for advice about
retransmission consent from its members since Oct. 1, vice president of
programming Frank Hughes said.

October is when TV stations send out letters notifying cable operators if
they've opted for either must-carry or retransmission consent within their
designated market areas.

The process through which MSOs and broadcasters are reupping their
retransmission-consent contracts is "an enormous job," Hughes said.

Battles may be brewing between cable systems and TV stations that are either
seeking cash for carriage -- from 25 cents to 65 cents per month, per home,
according to Hughes -- or that are part of media conglomerates tying
retransmission consent to cable-network launches.

Hughes called that practice "extortion."

"We believe that Fox local and national programming is of value to broadband
providers," Fox Cable spokesman Tom Tyrer said. "Although we don't typically
comment on the status of any confidential negotiations, we remain in active
discussions on several licensing alternatives, including conventional fees for
station carriage."

"We negotiate ABC retransmission consent only for the 10 markets where ABC
owns stations," ABC Cable spokesman Eric Hollreiser said. "In these discussions,
we offer a stand-alone cash option at rates that are very reasonable, given the
quality of the programming."

He added, "In fact, the rate is particularly attractive given the high number
of viewers that watch ABC's mixture of network and local sports, entertainment,
news and information programming."

NBC is mostly out of the game since it closed long-term
retransmission-consent deals for its owned-and-operated TV stations with most
major distributors, extending to 2008. Those packages included Olympic Games
coverage on CNBC and MSNBC.

Kent Gibbons contributed to this story

Related