NECN Woos Cox for Deal in Rhode Island

New England has six states, but New England Cable News is seen in just five. Cox Communications Inc. declines to carry NECN in Rhode Island, where it serves more than 330,000 subscribers, or 95% of cable customers.

NECN can’t put any heat on Cox by turning to DirecTV Inc. or EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network, the two main direct-broadcast satellite providers, because the network’s owners limit distribution to terrestrial cable companies.

Here last Tuesday to address the local cable club, NECN president Phil Balboni said he planned to meet with Cox later in the week in an effort to reach an agreement. “We hope to find the right formula for them,” he said.

Balboni said Cox thinks NECN’s license fee is too high. In the past, Cox has said the network is Boston-centric and not desired by Rhode Island subscribers.

John Wolfe, Cox’s New England-based spokesman, said NECN had sought an analog tier position and declined Cox’s offer of a digital slot.

NECN “is an expensive service,” Wolfe said. “They are asking to be added to a lineup that is loaded with news product.”

NECN is partly owned by Comcast Corp. and Hearst Corp.

Balboni said Comcast, waiving its exclusivity, has permitted NECN to sign deals with competing cable companies in New England, but not with DBS.