2012 has seen no shortage of retransmission consent disputes resulting in broadcasting stations going dark. Just ask DirecTV and Cablevision subs who are currently without Northwest Broadcasting and Tribune stations, respectively. But while those blackouts have lasted more than a month, there have been others this year that have lasted even longer. Take a look at CableFAX’s list of the 7 longest-running blackouts of the ’12 retrans season. Why 7? Because we’re hoping to hit the 7th inning stretch soon, and get a reprieve from the squabbling. (Hat tip to Mediacom’s Tom Larsen, who has been keeping close tabs on disputes.)
1. Shentel-Allbritton (WJLA). 271 day and counting: Jan 1, 2012 – present. This is exactly what smaller operators are complaining about when they say they don’t get the same sort of press as their larger counterparts for a broadcast blackout. This has been a hot one, and it even involves a big market station. In July, the FCC Media Bureau rejected a retrans negotiation complaint Allbriton filed against the operator, which serves parts of WV, VA and MD. Allbritton argued that Shentel had failed to negotiate in good faith for carriage of in-market ABC affil WJLA-TV (DC). The broadcaster had wanted to force the operator into a proposal it had previously offered (and Allbriton had initially rejected), but the FCC said that once a counter offer was made, Shentel wasn’t bound by the initial offer.
2. Time Warner Cable – Cordillera. 165 days: Dec 13, 2011-May 25, 2012. While this one started at the end of ’11, we’re counting it as a 2012 blackout since it didn’t get settled until the year was nearly halfway over. This dispute left Corpus Christi, TX, subs without NBC affil KRIS, for the Super Bowl. Also included in the blackout were Telemundo affil KAJA and CW affil KDF for more than 5 months. TWC handed out thousands of over-the-air antennas, partnered with rival DirecTV to host a Super Bowl viewing party and pointed subs to NBC On Demand content.
3. DISH – Silverton Broadcasting/Wyomedia/Mark III. 123 days: Jan 1, 2012 – May 2, 2012. This spat involved several local broadcast stations serving Casper and Cheyenne, Wyoming, including ABC affil KTWO and Fox affil KFNB. DISH balked at the broadcasters’ offer, saying it meant a rate increase of more than 250%. The stations argued that DISH wanted to pay significantly less than other MVPDs in the area. It eventually got worked out, but not before subs missed some Broncos games and other local programming.
4. DISH – Meredith (Peachtree TV- Turner Broadcasting). 112 days: Jan 26, 2012 – May 16, 2012. This one is a little confusing. In ’11, Meredith took over management of Atlanta’s Peachtree TV, but it remains the property of Turner. Braves fans were hit hardest, with viewers in the metro Atlanta area unable to watch the team’s home opener. Fans missed 10 games total, with Peachtree airing about 45 games a year.
5. DirecTV – Northwest. 46 days and counting. Aug 13, 2012 – present. Earlier this summer, it looked like this negotiation could end without fireworks. Multiple extensions were granted, but then on Aug 13 Northwest’s Fox stations in Spokane and Yakima-Pasco-Richland-Kennewick, WA, as well as Binghamton, NY, and Medford-Klamath Falls, OR, disappeared. DirecTV has been sending viewers to Hulu and Fox.com for primetime series. It’s even provided regular updates on NFL games, noting that Seahawks games are not blacked out on NFL Sunday Ticket. For its part, Northwest says it has been trying to reach a deal since late ’10 and has ceased negotiations with the satellite provider.
6. Golden West Telecom – Hoak Media. 44 Days: Jan 5, 2012 – Feb 17, 2012. SD’s Golden West lost ABC affil KSFY as the two bickered over money. As per usual, the distributor said the rate was too high, while the broadcaster said Golden West was offering up below market proposals. Worth noting: The broadcaster directed subs to free online versions of ABC programming and local newscasts.
7. Cablevision – Tribune. 42 days and counting. Aug 17, 2012 – present. (Blackout of WTIC-Fox in Hartford, CT, began Aug 25). Here’s a blowup that appears to be about more than just price. Cablevision has said the major barrier to a deal is Tribune attempting to tie carriage of the Hartford Fox affil to less popular Tribune channels (CW and MyNetwork TV affils). While the MSO claims such bundling is illegal, Tribune says it’s completely lawful and actually benefits viewers. On Aug 17, 4 Tribune stations (all CW and MyNetwork stations) went dark on Cablevision. On Aug 25, with no retrans deal in place, Cablevision had to bid goodbye to WTIC as well as WGN America.