Mediacom cable TV service subscribers in 12 DMAs across the U.S. presently lack access to at least one of their home market’s Big Four affiliates.
Why? Of course it’s another retransmission consent impasse, which has led Mediacom — by law — to drop such stations as WWL-4 in New Orleans, KARE-11 in Minneapolis and KPNX-12 in Phoenix from its respective market lineups.
The MVPD puts the blame on TEGNA, the stations’ owner. TEGNA feels otherwise.
“You may have noticed that certain TV channels are currently unavailable to you. Please know these channels have been blocked by their owner, TEGNA Inc.”
That’s how Mediacom is explaining the loss of all TEGNA-owned stations from its channel lineups in DMAs as disparate as Norfolk, Tucson, St. Louis and Des Moines.
In its own interpretation of events, Mediacom assured its customers that the decision to “blackout” the channels “was not made by Mediacom.”
It said, “Our contract with TEGNA expired on December 31, 2020, at 5pm Eastern. At that time, we were ordered by TEGNA to stop carrying their stations, despite the fact that we were offering to pay a significant increase over our previous contract. Under federal law, we can’t carry a station unless the owner grants us permission to do so.”
The last sentence is undisputed as fact. The rest of Mediacom’s statement was addressed by TEGNA in a statement appearing on the websites for its impacted stations, such as WQAD-8, the ABC affiliate serving the Quad Cities of Illinois and Indiana.
The TEGNA station explained, “WQAD is currently not available on Mediacom. That means Mediacom is taking away your access to your favorite ABC programming.”
With agreements in place with Dish, DirecTV and Comcast in the DMA that includes Bettendorf, Moline and Davenport, TEGNA said, “Unfortunately, Mediacom refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us, which is why our station is not currently available on Mediacom.”
Who is correct is likely of little consequence to the “hard working residents of rural Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia” — customers Mediacom said would need to absorb the costs of any price interest it cannot agree to in its quest to reach a retrans deal with TEGNA.
Mediacom, the nation’s fifth-largest MVPD, does not explain why the cost would need to be passed on to customers. Mediacom is privately owned by empresario Rocco Commisso, owner of Italian pro soccer team ACF Fiorentina and the MLS’s reborn New York Cosmos.
Mediacom’s 2019 operating income was $808 million.
According to the company’s annual fiscal report, Mediacom’s revenues were $2.031 billion for the year ended December 31, 2019.
Will a new deal come soon?
“Mediacom is continuing to work hard to achieve a viable and affordable solution; however, the decision to pull the stations from your channel lineup rests entirely with TEGNA,” it says in an online microsite for Mediacom customers.
Will WQAD ever be back on the Mediacom system?
“We hope so,” TEGNA says. “It is really up to Mediacom to decide. We are committed to reaching a fair deal. If Mediacom is willing to make the same commitment, then we are confident that we can get an agreement that restores our station to the Mediacom lineup.”