Media General Stations Go Dark on Mediacom

Media General stations in 14 markets went dark to Mediacom Communications customers Tuesday night in a retransmission consent dispute, including three Fox stations just prior to the start of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.

Three Fox stations – WVBT in Norfolk, Va.; WTHI in Terre Haute, Ind.; and KTMJ in Topeka, Kans. – in Mediacom territory went dark just as the All-Star Game, live from Great American Ballpark (pictured) in Cincinnati, was beginning, according to Mediacom.  

Other stations that went dark in the dispute, according to Mediacom, are: KWQC (NBC) in Davenport, Iowa/Rock Island-Moline, Ill.; KIMT(CBS/MNT) in Mason City, Iowa; KELO (CBS/MNT) in Sioux Falls, S.D.; WANE (CBS) in Fort Wayne, Ind.; WAVY (NBC) in Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Va.; WTHI (CBS) in Terre Haute, Ind.; WKRN (ABC) in Nashville, Tenn.; KSNT (NBC) in Topeka, Kans.; KSNW (NBC) in Wichita-Hutchison, Kans.; WIAT (CBS) in Birmingham, Ala.; WOTV (ABC) and WOOD (NBC) in Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Mich.; WBAY (ABC) in Green Bay-Appleton, Wis.; WFNA (CW) in Mobile, Ala./Pensacola, Fla.; and KRON (MNT) in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Calif..

As is usual in retrans disputes, money is at the center of the impasse. In a letter to customers July 15, Mediacom Lincoln region vice president Tom Curtis said that in his market, which includes NBC affiliate KWQC, in negotiating a new three-year pact, the station demanded the operator pay more than double the rate it had paid in the past.

“Not only was Media General demanding more than double the money, the price they set for KWQC was significantly more than any other broadcast station we carry,” Curtis said in the letter. “If we agreed to Media General’s demands, KWQC would have become the most expensive broadcast channel in all of the 1,500 communities that Mediacom serves across 22 states.  Further, other broadcasters would follow and begin demanding to be paid the same as Media General, driving up costs for other channels on your lineup.”

On its website, KWQC said that it has hoped it would be able to reach a deal with Mediacom, as it has with several other multichannel video programming distributors in the past.  

“Please know that we have tried hard to reach an agreement with Mediacom, so that our viewers would not have to miss any of our around-the-clock reporting of news, traffic, weather emergencies, public service announcements, and favorite local and national programming,” KWQC said on its website. “We are disappointed in the outcome of our negotiations, especially since we have successfully reached deals with every major cable, satellite and telecommunications company that recognizes our fair market value. Without fair and equitable treatment, local TV stations will not be able to continue to provide top quality news, sports, entertainment, and other local programming that is most important to you.”

Media General purchased the stations from in two separate deals in 2013 with Young Broadcasting  and in 2014 with LIN Media.  According to Mediacom, this is the second time the stations have gone dark – in 2011 LIN blacked out many of the same stations in a separate retrans dispute for more than a month. Mediacom claims that since 2008, Media General and its predecessor companies Young and LIN have blacked out more than 75 stations.

The latest dispute comes about a week after Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso asked the Federal Communications Commission to limit blackouts during retrans disputes.