Cable organization seeks to prevent Topeka TV triple-play


The American Cable Association is concerned that the sale of KTKA-TV in the Topeka KS DMA will lead to a local triopoly that includes affiliates of three of the big four television networks. ACA’s suspicions are linked to the prior relationships of the buyer and that of a TV group already active in the market.

ABC KTKA is being bought by Todd Parkin’s PBC Broadcasting from Free State Communications in a deal brokered by and Kalil & Co. for the buyer and CobbCorp for the seller. The value is $1.5M cash, according to documents accepted by the FCC 2/10/11.

It is the third station for PBC. The red flag for ACA is the fact that in PBC’s other two markets, it has local arrangements with New Vision Broadcasting – those markets include Youngstown OH and Savannah GA. What has ACA exercised is the fact that New Vision already has a pair of Topeka stations, NBC KSNT and Fox KTMJ.

ACA’s Matt Polka says his organization fully expects another deal between the two television companies. “If this very troubling transaction is allowed to go through unchanged, Topeka’s pay television viewers will suffer irreparable economic harm either by paying higher subscription rates or losing total access to as many as three of Topeka’s Big Four stations at the same time,” said Polka.

ACA wants the deal blocked or saddled with conditions that prevent retransmission consent negotiations with the threesome sold as a single package.

“ACA is drawing the line in the Topeka market because based on empirical data from many local TV markets, we know that TV stations that jointly negotiate retransmission consent deals (especially the affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) charge pay television providers higher fees than stations that bargain on their own,” Polka explained. “Consumers in Topeka will be injured by this deal. If the limited condition sought by ACA proves unacceptable to the applicants, then the FCC shouldn’t think twice about designating the TV station license transfer for hearing.”

In a statement, ACA said, “Free State Communications and PBC Broadcasting bear the legal burden of showing the FCC that the TV station transfer will serve the public interest in the nation’s 137th largest television market with nearly 180,000 television homes. A total of 13 cable operators serve the Topeka market in addition to two satellite TV providers. Meanwhile, ACA has 10 member companies serving about 30,000 households in the 17-county Topeka DMA. Five small cable providers operating in the Topeka DMA filed declarations with the FCC in support of ACA’s petition. All five operators have a retransmission consent agreement with KTKA that expires on Dec. 31, 2011.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Should this deal be allowed to go forward if it is indeed headed for some type of shared services and/or joint sales agreement that would create a small-market three-station TV cluster? We understand why local MVPDs might object – and we would also understand why other local television broadcasters might object even more. Any thoughts? The space to weigh in on this topic is provided just to the south on this virtual page.