New Year, New Blackouts

The new year brought new retransmission consent woes for two cable operators, as Cable One and Suddenlink subscribers lost access to broadcast channels, unable to reach retransmission consent agreements as the midnight deadline passed.

Northwest Broadcasting, which has four broadcast channels in Grenada and Cleveland, Miss., -- WABG (ABC), WABG2 (FOX), WNBD (NBC), and WXVT (CBS) -- went dark at the midnight Jan. 1 deadline to reach a retrans deal passed.

Cable One had warned its customers on Dec. 29 that a deal might not be reached.

"For several weeks we have been in negotiations with Northwest Broadcasting over programming fees and we have made every effort to reach a fair deal,” said Cable One vice president John Gosch in a statement. “However, Northwest Broadcasting is demanding a rate increase of nearly 70% over their previous contract with Cable One – a rate higher than paid to any television broadcaster in any of Cable One’s other 40+ markets. Northwest Broadcasting also refused our request for an extension, so that we could keep these channels up and running for our customers while negotiations continued.”

Cable One received an extension in its retrans negotiations with Hearst broadcasting concerning six channels -- Oklahoma City's KOCO-TV (ABC), WVTM-TV (NBC) in Birmingham, Ala.; KOAT-TV (ABC) in Albuquerque; WDSU-TV (NBC) in New Orleans; KETV (ABC) in Omaha; and WAPT-TV (ABC) in Jackson, Miss.  Hearst said negotiations continue.

Suddenlink customers lost access to Morgan Murphy Media’s ABC affiliate in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, KXLY, at midnight on Jan. 1. Suddenlink parent Altice USA claims Morgan Murphy is demanding a rate increase that is 75% above its current rate.

In a statement on its website, KXLY said it offered Suddenlink reasonable terms but was refused.

“Suddenlink wants a better deal than we have given its competitors and we don't believe that's fair. We hope to reach an agreement soon,” KXLY said in its statement.

In a statement, Altice USA confirmed that the channel is dark to customers, and reiterated its stance on what it called out of control retrans increases.

“Rapidly increasing fees charged by broadcast stations and content companies are the greatest contributor to rising cable bills, and we are working hard to keep those costs as low as possible for our customers,” Altice USA said in the statement. “We want to continue to carry KXLY-ABC Channel 4 at a reasonable rate, and call on its owners to stop holding our customers hostage and put their station back on our Suddenlink lineup while we negotiate an agreement that is fair for our customers.”