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Mediacom Warns of Sinclair Losses

Mediacom Communications said Tuesday that it had begun notifying its cable subscribers that they could lose the ability to view local broadcast stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group beginning Dec. 1 (www.multichannel.com/article/CA6378740.html).

Mediacom also filed an emergency retransmission complaint at the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, asking the agency to force Sinclair to “immediately commence negotiations in good faith.”

Notices to subscribers regarding KDSM, Channel 17, in Des Moines, Iowa; and KGAN, Channel 2, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, were posted on the company’s Web site (www.mediacom.com) as of Tuesday afternoon.

Under “customer updates,” Mediacom said it was Sinclair that “decided to pull its stations” off Mediacom systems beginning Dec. 1. The updates called Sinclair’s demands for “millions of dollars” in payments to continue to carry the stations “outrageous” and urged subscribers to call the TV stations’ managers to protest.

Sinclair general counsel Barry Faber was not available for comment Tuesday.

Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco B. Commisso said additional notices would be posted overnight and subscribers would also be notified by other means, such as newspaper ads, of the pending loss of broadcast stations from Mediacom lineups. Notices will also be posted in text crawls on their local stations.

Approximately 800,000 of Mediacom’s 1.4 million cable subscribers stand to lose access to a Sinclair station. The stations include: KDSM; KGAN; WEAR (ABC) and WFGX, Mobile, Ala./Pensacola, Fla.; WYZZ (Fox), Peoria, Ill; and stations in Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.; Lexington, Ky.; Madison, Wis.; Nashville, Tenn.; Minneapolis; Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Champaign, Ill; St. Louis; Tallahassee, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; Norfolk, Va.; and Milwaukee.

A U.S. district court last week rebuffed Mediacom’s attempt to get a preliminary injunction against Sinclair pulling its stations off Mediacom’s wires. Mediacom continues to pursue an antitrust case against Sinclair, arguing that Sinclair is unlawfully trying to force Mediacom to pay a single bundled fee to carry its stations in many markets.

Mediacom has signed agreements with 40 different broadcasting groups, covering a total of 475 local stations.

“My position with Sinclair is very simple: I’ll give you any deal that I’ve done with anybody else in my markets, with any of those 40 multiple-station operators,” Commisso said Tuesday afternoon. “Or I’ll accept the deal you’ve done with Comcast or Insight [Communications].”