TV stations owned and operated by Draper Media have reached a new multi-year agreement with the lone cable TV service provider in the Salisbury, Md., area — Comcast.
However, the offerings can’t be seen on Verizon Fios’ local channel lineup — the result of the latest dispute over retransmission fees to be seen in 2017.
The deal with Comcast ensures that CBS affiliate WBOC-16 and its DT2 FOX programming marketed as “FOX21” stay put on Xfinity in the region of Maryland and Delaware known as the Delmarva Peninsula.
Furthermore, Comcast Xfinity customers will be getting Spanish-language “Telemundo Delmarva,” Draper Media’s locally operated affiliate of the NBCU network, within 30 days. And, Draper’s Antenna TV (WBOC-DT3) will continue to be carried on Xfinity systems.
“We’re pleased that our largest distribution partner here understands and appreciates the value of our local and network programming,” Craig Jahelka, president of Draper Media, said in a direct attack on Verizon.
He continued, “This new agreement is a reflection that a nationwide video distributor operating locally recognizes our long-standing commitment to serving the people of Delmarva with the highest quality news, information and entertainment. While we are pleased to announce this agreement, it comes at a time when another programming distributor, Verizon FiOS, refuses to recognize the value of our programming and has dropped us from its system in Delaware.”
WBOC-16, FOX21 and Antenna TV affiliate “WBOC Classics” were, by law, dropped from Verizon Fios’ lineup in the Salisbury-Ocean City, Md., DMA on Sept. 30, after a new retrans fee agreement failed to be reached by the expiry time of the old agreement.
Jahelka claims negotiations with Verizon FiOS ended unexpectedly and that the station was dropped without warning.
He further attacked Verizon, claiming they “stunned” Draper.
“If we would have known Verizon was going to drop our stations we would have warned our viewers earlier,” Jahelka said. “We have a history of reaching retransmission consent agreements that include fair compensation with other carriers on Delmarva. We’ve done it for years. Regrettably Verizon isn’t willing to be fair, and their customers are the ones who suffer.”
But, are the retrans fees Draper seeks in a new accord with Verizon Fios significantly higher than those in its old deal — following an industry trend among broadcast TV companies to protect profits through higher fees as ad dollars trend downward?
Verizon responded to Jahelka’s accusations with spokesman Chris McCann telling Delaware Business Now, “Our goal is always to give our customers the best TV experience while keeping prices as low as possible. Despite our best efforts to accomplish that with Draper, they have removed their channels from Fios TV. We remain hopeful they’ll reconsider their initial proposed rate increase of over 175%, which is not a good value for our customers.”
Verizon Fios’ “blackout” of the Draper Media channels impacts roughly 18,500 subscribers.