Same Auld Lang Syne: Year-End Retrans Fights

Like the crystal ball dropping in Times Square, retransmission-consent disputes came down to the wire at year’s end.

But 2014 ended with little of the acrimony that had characterized previous years. While there was still some mudslinging — at press time, Dish Network and 21st Century Fox were still at loggerheads concerning carriage of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network — the year ended with a whimper, not a bang.

Even Cable One, which is embroiled in a nine-month-long dispute with Viacom, managed to come to terms with NBCUniversal on Dec. 31. It agreed to a long-term deal for networks such as MSNBC, USA Network, Bravo and Syfy and NBC and Telemundo TV stations in markets such as Phoenix; Oklahoma City; Boise, Idaho; and Biloxi, Miss.

Cable One even agreed to add NBCU networks it hadn’t previously carried, such as Chiller, Cloo and Universal HD. “This agreement confirms the value of the entire NBCUniversal portfolio,” NBCU said in a statement. “NBCUniversal looks forward to continuing our longstanding relationship with Cable One and ensuring that our loyal viewers will always have access to our valuable programming.”

Dish signed deals on Dec. 31 with two TV stations in Maryland, but as of press time was still out of contract with three North Carolina stations — WRAL (CBS) and WRAZ (Fox) in Raleigh, N.C. and WILM (CBS) in Wilmington, N.C. — which went dark to the satellite provider’s customers on Dec. 28.

Time Warner Cable, Suddenlink Communications and Cablevision Systems said they had no significant retrans deals coming due at year-end.

Cox Communications reached a deal with Schurz Communications’s NBC affiliate in Roanoke, Va. on Dec. 31, and was granted an extension to Jan. 6 for Gray TV stations in Florida, Kansas and Nebraska. DirecTV’s retrans agreement with 10 Cordillera Communications stations in Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, California, Arizona, Texas and Montana expired without a new pact; the stations went dark on the satellite-TV provider on Jan. 1. While Cordillera has had lengthy battles in the past with distributors — its Corpus Christi, Texas, stations went dark to Time Warner Cable customers in 2012 for about six months — DirecTV is hopeful it can reach a deal.

On its website, Cordillera said talks are continuing and “both sides have made considerable compromises to try to come to terms, but fundamental differences remain on several key points, including the fair value of our programming.” While these deals are all subject to change, here’s a look at what was on the agenda as of press time:

Cox Communications: Receiving extensions to Jan. 6 were stations WOWT (NBC), Omaha, Neb.; WJHG (NBC) and WECP (CBS), Panama, Fla.; WIBW (CBS), Topeka, Kan.; and KAKE (ABC), Wichita, Kan.

DirecTV: On Jan. 1, stations KOAA (NBC), Colorado Springs, Colo.; WLEX (NBC), Lexington, Ky.; KATC (ABC), Lafayette, La.; KSBY (NBC), Santa Barbara, Calif.; KVOA (NBC), Tucson, Ariz.; KRIS (NBC), Corpus Christi, Tex.; KPAX (CBS), Missoula, Mont.; KBZK (CBS), Butte, Mont.; KTVQ (CBS), Billings, Mont.; and KRTV (CBS), Great Falls, Mont., went dark to DirecTV subscribers.

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