CMG Quartet Gets Fios Return As TEGNA, FOX Get New Retrans Deals

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There’s no longer any fear for Suddenlink customers in markets where TEGNA owns stations of a “blackout” caused by the lack of a retransmission consent agreement. The same can be said of those wishing to view FOX-owned networks appearing on cable TV systems members of the National Cable Television Cooperative operate.


And, some NBC viewers in four markets are once again able to tune to the Cox Media Group-owned affiliate.

Less than a half hour before the New Year’s Eve balldrop was set to conclude in Times Square, an agreement was reached between Fox Corporation and the NCTC.

The retrans agreement included Fox News, Fox Business, and regional sports networks.

Service Electric General Manager Jack Capparell told The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., that Fox was seeking double-digit increases of anywhere between 20% and 40%.

“We were satisfied with the numbers we were at right now, and our vote was to continue [carrying the channels],” he said prior to the signing of a new deal, putting a potential “blackout” in play.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the NCTC that avoided any disruption to our viewers,” Fox spokesperson Megan Klein said in a statement. “All of the NCTC’s members will continue to carry our portfolio of leading sports, entertainment and news programming for years to come.”

FOX O&Os such as WTTG-5 in Washington, D.C., were not impacted as they are covered under a different retransmission fee accord.

Before the deal with the NCTC was reached, Fox Corp. placed a full-page advertisement in Friday’s Morning Call in which it accused the NCTC of fabricating an “avoidable crisis.”

Roughly an hour before it became known that the NCTC and Fox reached a new multi-year retransmission consent agreement, Tysons, Va.-based TEGNA and Suddenlink signed off on a new pact — avoiding a potential blackout on the Altice-owned MVPD of TEGNA’s stations.

Suddenlink serves the western, midwestern and southern states with the majority of customers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.

TEGNA owns stations in both Phoenix and Tucson; Fort Smith and Little Rock, Ark.; Sacramento and San Diego; New Orleans; Charlotte and Greensboro-Winston Salem; and in 12 Texas markets.

Also of no worry: a retransmission consent showdown between Mediacom Communications and Nexstar Media Group, with a deal reached hours before the old retrans deal was to expire.

Unfortunately for Apollo Global Management’s newly acquired Cox Media Group, some viewers lost access to FOX affiliate WFXT-25 in Boston; NBC affiliate WPXI-11 in Pittsburgh; and Syracuse’s FOX WSYT-68 and MyNetwork TV WNYS-43.

That’s because CMG’s retransmission agreement with Verizon Fios expired at the start of 2020 with no new deal in place.

In a statement, CMG said it “has been negotiating in good faith, working into late hours of the evening to come to an agreement. At multiple points in the negotiation, CMG offered Verizon extensions to avoid disruption to their customers. Unfortunately, Verizon has refused all extension offers and instead, made the decision to remove these stations as they continued the negotiation. Cox Media Group has made every effort to get Verizon to restore these stations to their lineup and will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach a resolution as quickly as possible.”

Naturally, Verizon pointed fingers at CMG. “The owners of WPXI had demanded Verizon pay increases of over 70% so customers can continue watching their channel — increases that we’re not willing to pass on to our customers. This is like the price of gas going from $2.99 a gallon to over $5 overnight,” David Weissmann, a spokesman for Verizon Consumer Group, wrote in a statement to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Unfortunately, they did not provide an answer to our reasonable offers for prolonged periods of time at critical points of the negotiation. They have refused to let us provide their channels to our customers at fair market rates.”

Late Saturday, a Verizon spokesperson said, “We’ve been able to reach an agreement with the owners of [WPXI], WFXT, and WSYT and will be able to restore their programming to our Fios® TV customers shortly.”

The WPXI call letters were incorrectly reflected in the Verizon statement.

The short Verizon impasse came as Comcast on Jan. 1 decide to remove the WPXI-run Pittsburgh Cable News Channel.

“We at WPXI and PCNC are very disappointed with the disruption and inconvenience to Comcast viewers that will result from Comcast’s actions, but we were informed of Comcast’s decision less than 48 hours ago,” WPXI VP/GM Kevin Hayes said in a statement. “Our priority is serving our viewers and our agreements with other distributors will remain in place. We will continue to produce content for PCNC and service to those viewers will not be interrupted.”

 

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