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Nexstar Sues Comcast Over WPIX Retransmission Fees

 Nexstar
(Image credit: Nexstar)

Nexstar Media Inc. filed a suit against Comcast Cable Communications charging that the cable company was breaching its retransmission contract by failing to pay fees for carrying WPIX New York.

In the suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, Nexstar is seeking unspecified damages, interest and other costs, including attorney’s fees.

In 2019, Nexstar acquired Tribune Broadcasting, which owned WPIX, but sold the New York stations and other stations to the E.W. Scripps Co. to fit under the FCC's ownership caps. As part of the sale of stations to Scripps, Nexstar retained an option to buy back WPIX. Nexstar sold that option to Mission Broadcasting in July 2020 for $75 million.

Nexstar has a management agreement with Mission Broadcasting and says in its lawsuit that its contract with Comcast covers additional stations managed by Nexstar. Nexstar said it notified Comcast that WPIX was one of the stations it manages, including negotiating retransmission fees.

“Comcast’s retransmission of WPIX became governed by the terms of the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement, including the specific fees that the parties had negotiated,” Nexstar said in the suit. 

“Rather than live up to its end of the bargain, however, Comcast decided to repudiate the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement. In a series of letters spanning April through July 2021, Comcast stated that it would not comply with its obligations under the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement, and confirmed that it had not been (and would not be) paying the fees required under that agreement for WPIX,” the suit claims.

Last week, Comcast asked the FCC to rule that Nexstar has control over WPIX, putting it in violation of the 39% ownership cap. 

In its petition to the FCC, Comcast argues that the WPIX spinoff was a sham and that Nexstar was trying to boost the fees Comcsat pays for the station. 

“Nexstar has, as a practical matter, pulled a ‘bait-and-switch’ with the Commission and the public through its post-transaction interactions with WPIX,” Comcast told the commission.

“The complaint filed by Nexstar is just an attempt to distract from the important issues that we have brought to the FCC’s attention, including that Nexstar’s control and influence of WPIX violates the national ownership cap and the FCC’s merger conditions on its acquisition of Tribune Media,” Comcast said in a statement Wednesday.