Retrans Hangover for Small Ops
Byline: SHIRLEY BRADY
MSOs stuck to one New Year’s resolution – to resolve retransmission consent agreements that expired Dec. 31 – but smaller operators aren’t managing as well.
AT&T Broadband, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable renegotiated their three-year retransmission contracts with local broadcast affiliates, with no loss of service in any markets. AT&T Broadband reached an agreement with Denver ABC affiliate KMGH for a new six-year deal. Cox negotiated a one-year extension with two West Texas stations owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group: CBS affiliate KTAB in Abilene and ABC affiliate KMID in Midland. And Time Warner reached a deal with NBC affiliate WTHR in Indianapolis.
But smaller operators are having problems getting their retrans deals done, says American Cable Association president Matt Polka. Small ops in several markets are being forced to drop local broadcast signals – such as ABC affiliate KEZI in Bend, Ore., and WMAZ in Macon, Ga. – because they can’t come to terms with the station owners.
A number of broadcasters – notably Disney and Fox – have granted extensions so negotiations can continue without having to pull the plug on their signal, Polka says. Cox Enterprises, which owns NBC affiliates in five states, has refused to grant any extensions, adds Polka.
The ACA is expected to file an emergency brief in the next few weeks asking the FCC for deadline extensions so the retrans negotiations can continue. The group may also include pleas for a prohibition of tying retrans to carriage of other networks and may even challenge the idea of retransmission consent altogether.
With reporting by K.C. Neel.
THE NEXT QUESTION:
*Will the FCC protect small ops against the ACA’s claim of “abusive” retrans consent tactics?
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