Telecom Signaling Industry News

TMCNet:  Charter spat could bump local sports from Duluth cable

[February 24, 2012]

Charter spat could bump local sports from Duluth cable

Feb 23, 2012 (Duluth News Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Charter Cable subscribers in Duluth and Superior could lose access to two TV networks that carry popular programming such as University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey games and "Gossip Girl." Northland's CW 2 and My9/My9 Sports Network -- which carries local college and high school sports -- are scheduled to be cut from Charter Cable's lineup on March 12, according to a statement from the cable service provider. Those who do not subscribe to Charter Cable will not notice any changes.

Charter Cable is citing the rising cost of programming, specifically from broadcast TV stations, for the change.

"Recently, the ownership of KDLH-CW and KBJR-MyNetworkTV in Duluth have demanded fees we consider to be unreasonable and would add up to a significant monthly increase in the price our customers play for their cable TV service," a spokesperson for Charter Cable said in an e-mail. "Therefore, we have made the decision to discontinue carriage of these TV stations in our Duluth area channel line-up on March 12." David Jensch, vice president and station manager for Northland's NewsCenter, said the costs associated are minimal -- a penny per day per subscriber. Like many other broadcast television stations, Jensch said they are looking for compensation because the cable provider is making money from subscribers to air their stations.

"They just drew a line in the sand that said 'No,'" Jensch said. "We pay money for this programming. I spend a lot of money to produce UMD hockey and UMD football. This programming isn't free. We feel it is not unfair for us to charge a little bit of money." A station like KBJR-TV pays a fee to NBC to be an affiliate and broadcast its programming, with slots for local commercials and news. A station like My9 has fewer restrictions and more room for local programming, like college sports or a state of the city address from the mayor. Cable providers bundle stations together, then sell subscriptions to the services based on the channels included in the agreement.

"It's clear that Charter is trying to make some big national point and use us as an example," Jensch said.

Charter Cable has posted its take on the situation on the company's website, claiming that some broadcast stations are asking for a 400 percent increase in retransmission fees.

"On a regular basis, Charter negotiates new agreements with TV stations and cable networks for the right to provide their channels to our customers," Charter Cable says on its website. "Most of the time you never hear about our negotiations with them. But sometimes, a station or network demands too much and we have to take a firm stand to protect our customers and our business." This change will not affect any UMD games scheduled to air for the rest of this season.

In 2010, UMD signed a 2-year agreement with Northland's NewsCenter to air 14 men's hockey games and four women's games on the My9 Sports Network. The contract expires at the end of this season.

"It's not a concern for the immediate future," said UMD sports information director Bob Nygaard. "But definitely down the road we're concerned about access and reach and people's ability to watch our product." UMD sports are streamed on the athletic department's website Men's and women's hockey games are subject to pay-per-view of $8 a game.

The spat between Charter and two stations will not affect viewers who receive their TV signal from an antenna or who may receive the channels on satellite TV.

Programs that air on the CW include "The Vampire Diaries," "90210," "America's Next Top Model," "Hart of Dixie" and "Ringer." In addition to college hockey and football, My9 airs high school sports and Mayor Don Ness's state of the city address -- which also aired on Public Access Community Television. The CW streams full episodes of much of its programming online.

___ (c)2012 the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.) Visit the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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