Retrans battle brewing on Gulf Coast


Time is running out for a pair of LIN Television stations in the Mobile-Pensacola DMA in terms of cable carriage on systems owned by Mediacom. The company has warned viewers that the channels may disappear from the lineup if an agreement is not reached, and advises them on steps they can take to receive the stations in that event.

The stations are Fox WALA and CW WFNA. The contract with Mediacom expires 8/31/11, and LIN noted that the cable system would not be permitted to continue to offer the stations in the absence of a contract.

“Local broadcasters routinely negotiate their contracts with pay-TV providers and the majority of the time these contracts are renewed without any disruption to viewers,” said WALA and WFNA spokesperson Kyle Claude. “We feel it is our duty to inform our viewers when a contract deadline approaches and a new agreement has not yet been reached. Please know that we are still negotiating with Mediacom so you will not lose your favorite programming.”

The stations told viewers they would be able to continue receiving the stations by either getting the signal off-air with an appropriate antenna (likely rabbit ears) or by switching to a competing MVPD service.

RBR-TVBR observation: The usual result of retransmission stand-offs is a resolution prior to any disruption of service. Occasionally a game of hardball between broadcasters and MVPDs results in a temporary blackout of a given station or program service – but 99 times out of 100 that does not happen.

And note our use of the term program service – it’s true that MVPDs do not like to negotiate with broadcasters, but they don’t mind at all using strongarm tactics when they can if they’re dealing with an independent basic cable service.

They’d like the government to intervene on their behalf so they can get must-have programming on their own terms in broadcast instance, but would prefer that the government stay out of it and allow them to set their channel lineups, perhaps favoring their own programming properties, on the other.

MVPDs claim to love the free, open market, but it seems to be a conditional love, based on whether or not they happen to be the fittest in a given negotiation.