Belo in retrans standoff with Charter


Belo stations are warning cable viewers that Charter Cable may drop carriage December 31st, since the companies have been unable to come to agreement on a new retransmission consent agreement. The warnings are posted on websites of Belo’s WFAA-TV (ABC) Dallas, WCNC-TV (NBC) Charlotte, KMOV-TV (CBS) St. Louis and WVEC (ABC) Norfolk.

It was nearly a year ago, back in early January, that Belo ordered its HD broadcasts removed from Charter systems in five markets because Charter refused to pay for HD retrans. Now that its agreement for retransmission of standard definition Belo signals is about to expire, it’s hardly surprising that the MSO is again fighting against paying Belo.

Charter said it is working to control programming costs and issued a statement regarding the Dallas stations which stated that “WFAA-TV is demanding high monthly fees from Charter cable customers for the same programming they provide free over the air, and which ABC provides for free on the Internet at”

In addition to the four markets named above, Charter also removed the HD broadcasts of WWL-TV (CBS) New Orleans. It does not yet have any mention on its website of an impending complete removal from the local Charter systems. Belo corporate HQ has not yet responded to an RBR/TVBR inquiry as to whether it is also included in the showdown.

On the website of its flagship WFAA Dallas, Belo says it has been in negotiations with Charter for over two years and has been unable to come to an agreement on carriage. “WFAA-TV is asking Charter for about a penny a day per subscriber,” the notice states.

A similar notice on the KMOV St. Louis website spells out why Charter should be willing to pay Belo for its content:

“For the majority of viewers in the St. Louis area KMOV and CBS programming will still be available. We have been able to reach agreements with every other distribution company in town so viewers can still watch KMOV on Direct TV, Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse and of course over the air. Charter’s decision only affects Charter customers.
Channel 4 is far and away one of THE most popular channels on Charter Cable and has invested millions of dollars in its local news, and high-quality local and syndicated programming as well as in its conversion to high definition.

Charter boasts in its ads that local channels like KMOV are the main reason why you should spend your money on cable TV. What they don’t tell you is they have been taking local programming for free and then charging you. Charter pays practically all cable networks for their signals, networks that are far less popular. But they don’t want to pay for local channels. That’s not right, it’s not fair and Charter knows it. They pay to carry local signals in other cities, but this time – for some reason – Charter’s position will hurt St. Louis cable customers.

Interestingly, our company owns television stations all over the country and has been able to work out agreements like this in every single market with every cable distribution company and satellite provider except one, Charter Communications. They are the only company that refuses to recognize the value of a popular LOCAL station such as KMOV to its customers.

We are not giving up, and we will keep trying to negotiate with them to keep Channel 4 on Charter. You are not happy about this. We are not happy about this. It doesn’t have to be this way and Charter knows it.

Let Charter know how you feel. Give them a call, or send them an e-mail and tell Charter you want to keep Channel 4 on their cable system. Or you might consider switching to DISH Network, DIRECT TV or AT&T U-Verse.”

RBR/TVBR observation: No doubt some other broadcasters are counting down to a December 31st test of wills with cable companies on retrans, but aren’t yet making it public. No doubt we will see several signals pulled as the New Year dawns. But it’s pretty much certain that the cable operators who are still trying to get retrans for free will soon come to realize that those days are in the past.