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Sinclair Plays Hardball On HDTV

01-13-2007, 06:09 PM
The broadcast group blocks cable systems from carrying both standard and high-def channels.
By Phillip Swann

Washington, D.C. (January 12, 2007) -- Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 58 local stations in 36 markets, is threatening to prevent cable operators from carrying their standard and High-Definition TV channels.

By law, a cable operator must get permission from the local station to carry its feed. However, Sinclair is demanding that cable operators pay compensation for the right to carry the SD and HD feeds.

Late last night, a Time Warner spokeswoman said it expects to reach agreement to carry the Sinclair feeds in a handful of markets, including Ohio and central New York.

But in many markets, cable operators are refusing to pay so Sinclair last week blocked 22 stations from airing on cable systems in 13 states. Consequently, nearly one million viewers were unable to watch last weekend's NFL playoff games and primetime network programming in SD or HD.

The controversy is boiling over in some areas and the Iowa State Legislature has urged Sinclair to enter arbitration with Mediacom, which serves about 250,000 cable subscribers in Iowa. The Federal Communications Commission's Media Bureau has endorsed the request, although it has not ordered Sinclair to comply.

Sinclair yesterday refused the legislature's request.

"I hope you can understand Sinclair's reluctance to agree to such an unusual approach to resolve what is essentially a disagreement on price in a commercial negotiation," said Sinclair President and Chief Executive Officer David Smith.

Mediacom says Sinclair is asking for too much money and should agree to the arbitration.

LIN TV and other independently owned stations across the country are also denying cable operators to carry their high-def feeds, saying they should be compensated. The cable operators say the channels should be free because they are available for free via off-air antennas.
Source (http://www.tvpredictions.com/sinclair011207.htm)

01-13-2007, 11:55 PM
Wow!I'm shocked,normally cable plays hardball.On the flipside true basic cable is locals and whatever channels the company wants to include.I wonder if people in the home markets missed their teams play last week.This sucks big time,even though it doesn't effect me.

01-14-2007, 04:47 PM
Sinclair is one of the worst run TV companies around. All they are doing is loosing audiance.

01-14-2007, 10:32 PM
Sinclair is one of the worst run TV companies around. All they are doing is loosing audiance.
Probably so but there isn't another company to get locals from for the cable companies there playing hardball with.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. is one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies in the country today. Sinclair owns and operates, programs, or provides sales services to 58 television stations in 36 markets.

Sinclair's television group includes 19 FOX, 17 MyTV, 10 ABC, 9 CW, 2 CBS and 1 NBC affiliates and reaches approximately 22% of all U.S. television households.

Sinclair's news franchise includes 31 of its stations which air local news in 27 markets.

Sinclair, either directly or through its Ventures subsidiary, makes equity investments in strategic companies.

01-22-2007, 06:08 AM
What a quandry we have. The cable co does not want to pay because the programs are transmitted via ota? Correct me if I am wrong - but we pay the vable co's, why should they not pay?

01-22-2007, 10:25 PM
We also pay for OTA broadcast, via the added cost of products we buy from their advertisers. At least those local advertisers are part of the community.
We need to remember, as consumers, that cable is not the only game in town. Yes, they do have a larger program selection, but I think we are already paying through the a$$ for it. They could remove over half of their programing and I wouldn't even notice. Especially the shopping channels, just what we need, another place to spend money.
Not that sinclair is doing poorly. Check their annual reports.


01-23-2007, 10:15 AM
As I understand it, TWC signed the papers and their customers don't need to fret about this issue. Once again showing that cable companies, as evil as they are, are not ALL evil, ALL the time.

01-24-2007, 08:59 AM
Here's Sinclair's press release about the agreement with TWC:

BALTIMORE, Jan 22, 2007

"Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:SBGI) is pleased to announce that it has entered into a retransmission consent agreement with Time Warner Cable, the largest cable system servicing Sinclair's markets. The agreement, which expires December 31, 2009, allows Time Warner to carry the analog and digital signals of 35 television stations owned and/or operated by Sinclair in 22 markets to approximately six million of Time Warner's subscribers, many of whom receive two stations owned and/or operated by Sinclair.

Sinclair is very pleased to have reached this agreement with Time Warner, which carries our stations to more subscribers than any other cable company," commented David Smith, CEO and President of Sinclair. "We are excited that this agreement not only ensures retransmission of our signals by Time Warner for the next three years, but also provides for the carriage of our digital signals for the first time to most of Time Warner's subscribers. This agreement, which represents a mutually acceptable economic agreement between the parties, is further indication of the value of our television stations to cable companies and provides a strong illustration of the successful operation of the free market for negotiation of retransmission consent agreements."

Today's agreement includes the following stations and markets:

Birmingham, AL: WABM/WTTO
Buffalo, NY: WNYO/WUTV
Cape Girardeau, MO/Paducah, KY: WDKA/KBSI
Charleston, SC: WMMP/WTAT
Charleston, WV: WCHS/WVAH
Cincinnati, OH: WSTR
Columbus, OH: WSYX/WTTE
Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem, NC: WMYV/WXLV
Lexington, KY: WDKY
Norfolk, VA: WTVZ
Milwaukee, WI: WCGV/WVTV
Pensacola, FL/Mobile, AL: WEAR
Pittsburgh, PA: WPGH/WPMY
Portland, ME: WGME
Raleigh, NC: WLFL/WRDC
Rochester, NY: WUHF
San Antonio, TX: KABB/KMYS
Springfield, MA: WGGB
Syracuse, NY: WNYS/WSYT
Tallahassee, FL: WTWC
Tampa, FL: WTTA

The agreement also provides for the carriage of Sinclair's MyNetwork TV affiliates in Columbus, Ohio and Dayton, Ohio, both of which are transmitted as digital multicast stations.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies, currently owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 58 television stations in 36 markets. Sinclair's television group reaches approximately 22% of the U.S. television households and is affiliated with all the major networks.


01-24-2007, 09:07 AM
Excerpts (link to full story below):

"Mediacom Communications Corp. said Sunday that it would be willing to accept similar contract terms to those Sinclair Broadcast Group recently provided to Time Warner Cable to settle a dispute over how much Mediacom should pay to retransmit Sinclair stations' signals."

"Sinclair ... pulled 22 of its stations from Mediacom in 13 states on Jan. 6 after a contract between the two companies expired. That left more than 700,000 cable subscribers -- 250,000 of them Iowans -- without cable access to network-affiliated stations."

"Rocco B. Commisso, Mediacom's chairman and chief executive, said the company is pleased that Time Warner customers "did not have to endure the same blackout of the Sinclair stations that Mediacom customers have gone through the past two weeks."

"Now that Sinclair has reached a long term deal with Time Warner, whose terms presumably reflect the current market for retransmission consent, Sinclair should have no further excuses offering similar terms to Mediacom," he said in a statement."


01-24-2007, 09:17 AM
From: MultiChannelNews
By Linda Moss & Ted Hearn, 1/8/2007

"Comcast subscribers became the latest TV viewers to face the prospect of losing feeds of CBS, NBC and Fox stations supplied by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Under the gun, Comcast Friday began notifying a small number of subscribers that they could lose access to analog feeds of Sinclair stations within 30 days. At issue: paying cash to Sinclair in order to retransmit signals of its stations’ broadcasts.

"Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the nation’s largest broadcast-television-station owners, has demanded large cash payments from Comcast and, ultimately, consumers so that these customers can continue to view broadcast-television stations that are available over-the-air for free,” Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said in a prepared statement.

Sinclair VP and general counsel Barry Faber said, “We’ve barely begun negotiations with Comcast,” and it was too early to declare that the two companies were involved in a dispute.

Even so, Comcast became the third MSO to balk at paying cash to Sinclair for carriage of its stations.

About 700,000 subscribers belonging to Mediacom Communications, based in Middletown, N.Y., lost access to Sinclair signals at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Time Warner Cable, the nation’s second-largest MSO, is also facing the prospect of losing access to Sinclair signals, but on New Year’s Eve, it worked out an extension of its current retransmission deal through Friday, Jan. 12.

Sinclair and Time Warner agreed to extend their expiring contract so that they could continue to work out terms regarding stations in markets where the cable company purchased systems last year from now-defunct Adelphia Communications.

That negotiation involves systems with roughly 1 million subscribers, concentrated in New York in towns such as Buffalo and Syracuse, as well as in Ohio and Maine.

In the case of Comcast, about 3 million subscribers could lose their Sinclair signals March 1 if the two companies have not resolved their differences. The markets involved include Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.; Nashville, Tenn.; Richmond, Va.; and Tampa, Fla.

Under Federal Communications Commission rules, Comcast can’t drop Sinclair’s stations in February, when viewership is measured for the purpose of determining advertising rates. Comcast subscribers who are considered out-of-market are not covered by the FCC prohibition, however, causing Comcast to initiate the notification process last Friday.

“We are currently negotiating with Sinclair to reach a fair agreement, but are not legally allowed to carry these channels without Sinclair’s permission. We will do everything in our power to avoid service interruptions without adding Sinclair’s proposed fees to customers’ bills,” Cohen said.

Faber said Sinclair has been working to finalize its deal with Time Warner, “so Comcast hasn’t quite risen on my radar screen yet.”

The country’s largest cable company said it is refusing to pay Sinclair cash in exchange for a carriage agreement. Under federal law, TV stations may demand cash for carriage but cable operators are not required to agree. Both, however, must bargain in good faith.

In the three disputes, Sinclair could be hit hardest by not coming to terms with Comcast. According to one party knowledgeable about the negotiations, the Sinclair stations involved in the Comcast pact represent about one-third of the broadcaster’s revenue."


01-24-2007, 09:24 AM
From: The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
By George C. Ford, January 17, 2007

"Sinclair Broadcasting Group, owner of KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids, has sent a letter to members of Congress essentially telling them to steer clear of a dispute between Sinclair and Mediacom Communications Corp.

Baltimore-based Sinclair was responding to a letter from Rocco Commisso, chairman of Mediacom, seeking a congressional probe of the Federal Communications Commission's handling of its complaints regarding the companies' dispute.

The letter from David Smith, president and chief executive of Sinclair, was addressed to senators and congressmen from Iowa, Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Sinclair pulled the signals of 22 TV stations in those states from Mediacom on Jan. 5 when the two parties were unable to reach agreement on a new retransmission consent contract.

Smith, in his letter to Congress, said the negotiations between Mediacom and Sinclair "are simply, ordinary course of business negotiations between private enterprises." He said the FCC consistently has found that Sinclair has negotiated in good faith with Mediacom, despite claims to the contrary by the Middletown, N.Y.-based cable TV provider.

Smith said Mediacom's efforts "represent nothing more than the desperate attempt of a private enterprise to seek congressional assistance to remedy its failure to reach agreement during private negotiations."

Sinclair Broadcast Group, which also owns KDSM-TV in Des Moines, owns and operates programs or provides sales services to 58 television stations in 36 markets.

Mediacom, the dominant cable television provider in Iowa, has repeatedly asked Sinclair to agree to binding arbitration to settle their dispute.

Sinclair has rejected binding arbitration, saying Mediacom customers have not been harmed because they can still receive Sinclair channels with an over-the-air antenna or by subscribing to a direct broadcast satellite provider."


02-02-2007, 04:25 PM
It makes a pretty powerful case for OTA HDTV, doesn't it?