Skip to main content

No ‘Good Times’ For RTN After Distribution Spat

A feud between former RTN owner Equity Media Holdings Corporation (EMHC) and current owner Luken Communications saw the retro TV digital channel go dark for some 3 1/2 hours early Sunday morning. Equity Media had sold RTN, which airs the likes of Leave it to Beaver and The Rockford Files, to Luken Communications in June for $25 million, and had the option to buy it back by Dec. 24.

Equity has handled distribution services for RTN under a contract that expired Dec. 24, and was extended another week. But when Equity and Luken principal Henry Luken failed to come to terms on a deal for Equity to retake control of the network, Equity--citing the end of its contract--ceased its distribution role with RTN.

Working from a new operations center in Chattanooga, Luken scrambled to get a national feed back in place for RTN’s 80-plus affiliates, which include WJLA Washington and WNWO Toledo, some which insert local content. He said the feed was up within 3 ½ hours of RTN going dark, and that stations’ individual feeds will be in place in a week or so.

Henry Luken remains a major shareholder in Equity Media, which filed for bankruptcy in Little Rock last month.

Equity Media released a statement over the weekend stating that its service agreement with RTN had ended. “EMHC attempted to coordinate a seamless transition but despite repeated attempts to communicate with Luken Communications representatives, it received no response,” it read.

Equity also announced in the statement that its stations that had aired RTN will no longer do so.Those stations include WNGS Buffalo and KKYK Little Rock. An Equity spokesperson said the company was no longer authorized to air RTN on its stations, but that something might be worked out down the road to bring RTN programming back to Equity stations.

Luken says he’ll continue to ingest RTN affiliates’ customized content over the next few days. “It’s been a crazy 48 hours, though I did get a 4-hour nap,” he says. “But we’ve got a good crew here.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.