Cox Halts Hearst Stations Over Retrans Impasse


Live in Omaha and want to watch Good Morning America? If you’re a Cox Communications cable TV subscriber, you’re out of luck.

Want to watch NBC Nightly News in New Orleans? Nix that.

Cox and Hearst have reached an impasse in negotiating a renewal retransmission consent agreement.

ABC affiliate KETV-7 in Omaha is perhaps the station most impacted by the lack of an agreement, which the station announced Tuesday evening. As a result, Cox subscribers are “blacked out” of receiving KETV-7; as is standard in the war of words in matters regarding retransmission agreement disputes, Hearst reminds viewers that viewers can continue to receive KETV-7 “for free, over the air, and, where available, from your local cable or satellite operators.”

Other Hearst stations impacted by the lack of a new retransmission agreement include NBC-affiliated WDSU-6 in New Orleans, and the Little Rock affiliate of The CW and MeTV, KHBS-TV and KHOG-TV.

The squelching of Hearst-owned stations by Cox comes after the TV station owner “granted Cox a five-day extension” in hopes of concluding a renewal of its carriage agreement with Cox by Tuesday (9/5). While Hearst offered an additional three-day extension that would have allowed Hearst “to notify our respective viewers and customers of the potential impasse” and to continue its negotiations, Cox “refused the additional extension.”

Hearst’s statement to viewers put the blame on Cox.

“We are disappointed that Cox has refused our customary offer to extend our agreement, especially during this period of severe weather,” Hearst said; the statement also appears on the KHBS/KHOG website. “While we had hoped to conclude our negotiations before the extended Sept. 5 deadline, Cox has refused to continue those discussions and is seeking the right to carry our stations at below-market rates, which is neither fair nor reasonable. Hearst Television has made significant investments to deliver premier programming, including critical local news and weather programming like the type we have provided during Harvey and the post-hurricane relief efforts.”

For its part, Cox issued a statement late Tuesday, saying it is working to come to an agreement as soon as possible. “Contract negotiations are common in the TV industry and Cox has a history of reaching new agreements before the expiration date,” it said. “Cox is committed to keeping our customers connected to what they care about most, while also meeting our responsibilities to ensure you receive a good value of entertainment and communications services.”

Subscribers were asked to visit Cox’s viewer-concern webpage, for “other ways to watch and more information” — including stories that paint the picture of MVPDs being held hostage by broadcast TV companies seeking ever-higher payments for the rebroadcast of their signals on cable and DBS providers across the U.S.

Cox is unable to carry any Hearst station without their permission, hence the need for a legally binding retransmission agreement.

It’s been a bruising year for Hearst with respect to retrans deals. In March, it tangled with Dish Network in down-to-the-wire negotiations over a new retransmission consent agreement for all 33 of its broadcast TV stations.

That followed an early January squabble with DirecTV that saw Hearst’s stations fade to black as the new year began.

Thus, this marks the third instance for KETV, WDSU and the Arkansas combo in 2017 where local viewers have been drawn in to the latest battle over the right to bring signals to the very constituency negatively impacted by the board-room deliberations.