Verizon said Hearst is demanding "unreasonably large" increases in retransmission consent fees that may force Verizon to raise rates for its customers.
“Affordable local news is vital and customers want quality at-home entertainment, especially during a pandemic, so Verizon is surprised that Hearst Television is demanding pay increases that might keep Fios customers from watching their channels," Verizon said in a statement. "We urge Hearst Television to get serious about reaching a fair agreement and hope they will not remove their channels while negotiations continue.”
The Hearst channels at issue include WBAL Baltimore (NBC), WGAL Harrisburg (NBC), WTAE Pittsburgh (ABC), WCVB Boston (ABC) and WMUR Manchester, N.H. (ABC).
The two companies have a complex relationship, given that Verizon and Hearst are elsewhere 50/50 partners in Complex Networks, a suite of online brands.
A Verizon spokesperson also said there could be potential issues with carriage of a couple of Gray Television stations, WWBT (NBC) and WUVP (CW) Richmond, Va., based on "[Gray's] actions with other companies," they said, without elaboration.
A Hearst TV spokesperson declined comment.
"Over the last ten years, Gray has signed more than 1,000 retransmission consent agreements," said a Gray TV spokesperson, who added they could count on one had --"with fingers to spare"--the number of times Gray has not reached such agreements. "So, if Verizon is serious about reaching a deal [at] today’s marketplace rates for our top-rated stations in Richmond, a deal will get done," they said.
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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.