Suddenlink, Sinclair Settle Retrans Flap

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Suddenlink Communications, the St. Louis-based cable operator headed by Jerry Kent, reached an agreement late Monday with Sinclair Broadcast Group regarding their retransmission-consent dispute. Terms were not disclosed.

Suddenlink, which closed on its purchase of 240,000 subscribers in Charleston, W. Va., from Charter Communications in July, was faced with a retrans deal costing more than $40 million to carry two Charleston-area broadcast stations -- ABC affiliate WCHS-TV and Fox affiliate WVAH-TV -- owned by Sinclair.

Sinclair had asked for a $40 million upfront fee and $1 per month for each of the 200,000 Suddenlink subscribers in the area to continue carrying the stations. Sinclair had threatened to pull the stations from Suddenlink’s systems in early July.

Suddenlink petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to force Sinclair to keep the stations on Suddenlink’s cable systems at least until July 27 (the end of the Nielsen Media Research July sweeps) and asked the agency to force Sinclair to accept a deal similar to Suddenlink’s other pacts with the station owner in other markets.

The two parties reached a temporary deal July 25 that allowed the stations to remain on Suddenlink systems until Monday. That deal was finalized Tuesday.

With the new agreement, Suddenlink and Sinclair have withdrawn their FCC petitions.

Suddenlink vice president of government relations Pete Abel declined to give details on the new agreement with Sinclair but said the deal “includes mutually agreeable economic considerations.”

Asked if that included the $40 million fee, Abel said, “We made it very clear that this was never something we could find mutually agreeable.”

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