Meredith, Altice in Retrans Square-Off

Meredith's WFSB-TV Hartford, Conn., and Optimum cable operator Altice have yet to strike a retrans deal—their current pact expires Jan. 13—and are firing shots across the bow as the days dwindle down.

CBS affiliate WFSB warned viewers on its website that its signal would not be available on Optimum as of 5 p.m. Jan. 13 if they could not strike a deal, saying Optimum will "drop all of WFSB's top-rated programs."

It did point out that the signal would still, "of course," be available over the air. It also pointed out that Optimum had been purchased by Altice: "[A]fter its transaction with Altice, Optimum is now part of one of the world's largest cable giants."

"We have been trying for months to reach an agreement with Optimum from Altice," the station said. "So far, Optimum from Altice has rejected all of our proposals for compromise," the station said.

For its part, Altice/Optimum said Meredith "is threatening to pull its station from Optimum customers in Connecticut unless Altice USA agrees to a significant increase in retransmission fees."

"Altice USA wants to keep WFSB Channel 3 on and is currently in negotiations with Meredith Corporation. The current agreement does not expire until January 13," adding: "We want to carry WFSB Channel 3 at a reasonable rate and have already offered them an increase in retransmission fees."

Altice also had a different take on the free-over-the-air version. "The owners of local broadcast stations (such as Meredith Corporation) charge distributors (such as Altice USA) retransmission fees to carry their stations even though their content is available for free over the air," it said.

It also suggested an alternative: "[I]f WFSB pulls its signal, the overwhelming majority of our Connecticut customers, which reside in Fairfield County, will continue to have access to CBS programming on WCBS."

Meredith had an answer: "Our signals always have been and always will be available for free over-the-air to every viewer. But we cannot continue to provide the same high-quality programming if our competitors can take our programming for free and re-sell it," it said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.