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Sinclair, Comcast Negotiate as Retrans Deadline Looms

Another retransmission consent battle was heading into extra innings Wednesday night. Sinclair Broadcast Co. said it would negotiate with Comcast Corp. until 2 a.m. EST Thursday, after which it has threatened to pull its signal from Comcast systems in 23 markets, including Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Tampa and Sinclair’s home market, Baltimore. Often such deadlines are extended if the parties are still in talks.

In Baltimore and Pittsburgh, an impasse would mean Comcast subscribers there would have a hard time watching American Idol on Thursday night because those Sinclair stations are Fox affiliates.
A spokeswoman for Comcast said that would leave about 3.8 million subscribers missing a Sinclair station from their cable system. “We’re still talking,” she said.
Sinclair wants Comcast to pay to carry its signal. Comcast in a statement Wednesday said “Our first goal is to protect our customers from being charged extra for free TV. We continue to talk with Sinclair and will continue to offer Sinclair’s broadcast stations unless they demand that those stations be removed.”
Earlier, Sinclair pulled its signal from Mediacom cable systems affecting about 1.4 million customers, most in mid-sized or small cities, including Paducah, Ky., Springfield, Ill and DesMoines, Iowa. Eventually,

Mediacom blinked first and paid

But Comcast is the nation’s largest cable operator and markets involved are larger, so Sinclair risks losing more revenue. And Comcast has to consider precedent. Other broadcast groups say they will ask for cash payment the next time their retransmission consent contracts come due, so Comcast may feel it has to hold the line, or pay the price. Last week,

CBS, which has been among the leaders of the cash-for-carry movement, got cash from nine small cable operators