Sinclair and Mediacom Unable to Reach Carriage Deal

Cable company Mediacom says it handed out "thousands" of over-the-the air antennas in Des Moines--and some 40,000 over other affected markets--after it had to pull Sinclair signals from 22 stations reaching about 700,000 subscribers

Sinclair and Mediacom have been unable to come to terms on a carriage deal for the stations, which Sinclair says should receive as much for their signals as cable systems pay for cable nets with comparable ratings. At press time, Sinclair had not gotten back to Mediacom on its request for arbitration.

Des Moines is a key market Monday in terms of high-value programming because the Sinclair station there is an affiliate of Fox, which is broadcasting the national college football championship game Monday night.

According to a Mediacom spokesman, the company came up with another offer on Saturday with a source saying it was a formula-based payment tied to comparable nets. That was rejected, said Mediacom's VP of legal affairs, Tom Larsen, who would not comment on terms of the deal except to say it was "quickly rejected." Mediacom continues to push for FCC binding arbitration of the dispute by pointing to the affect on viewers.

The FCC, while denying a complaint by Mediacom that Sinclair was not bargaining in good fair, urged the parties to submit to arbitration by the FCC's Media Bureau, during which time the TV station signals would remain on, or at this point, be reinstated, on Mediacom, said the FCC.

A Sinclair spokesman had not returned a call at press time, but Sinclair General Counsel Barry Faber has said before that the issue is simply one of two parties unable to agree on the price for its valuable station signals, and that Sinclair is ready to shake hands and walk away, with viewers able to switch to satellite to receive the signal. It has a standing deal with DirecTV for which Sinclair receives a bounty for each sub it sends the company's way.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.