Sinclair Broadcast Group will likely be pulling its ABC affiliates—KOMO-TV in Seattle, Washington, and KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon—from Frontier after not renewing its retransmission consent agreement.
Those networks will be blacked out on Frontier starting Jan. 1, 2017. After Dec. 31, 2016, Frontier also plans to no longer carry the Sinclair-owned Tennis Channel, which Sinclair said will affect “hundreds of thousands of Frontier subscribers who currently receive this cable channel.”
“We have successfully negotiated carriage for our ABC stations with all other video providers in these markets and secured coverage for Tennis in all of our recent retransmission negotiations,” said Barry Faber, executive vice president of distribution for Sinclair, in a statement. “It is particularly unfortunate that Frontier would choose to deny Tennis Channel to hundreds of thousands of homes that involuntarily became Frontier subscribers earlier this year as a result of Frontier’s recent acquisition of Verizon FiOS systems in Florida, Texas and California.”
Faber did however throw in a pitch for other service providers like Comcast and DirecTV who will continue to carry Tennis Channel, urging Frontier subscribers to switch and adding that the ABC affiliates are always available free over the air.
“We note that we do not expect the loss of carriage to have a material impact on any of the effected stations, given that Frontier subscribers represent less than 3% of the total households in each of Seattle and Portland. The expected loss of Tennis Channel subscribers is similarly small,” Faber added.
Frontier hit back at Sinclair and accused the broadcaster of wanting too high retransmission rates.
“Every year, Frontier negotiates rates to carry cable networks and local TV stations to bring customers the best TV programming possible at the most reasonable prices. We are currently attempting to negotiate renewal terms with Sinclair Broadcast Group which is insisting on excessive rates and the inclusion of channels that our customers do not want,” said John Puskar, vice president of public relations for Frontier, in a statement provided to FierceBroadcasting.
Earlier this year, Sinclair paid $350 million to acquire Tennis Channel in hopes of leveraging retransmission renewal talks with pay-TV operators to boost carriage of the channel from 30 million to 50 million homes.
"They are tremendously under-distributed, and the quality of the programming they present is first-class," Faber said.
The fallout with Frontier could potentially bring up Sinclair’s aspirations to reach 50 million homes with Tennis Channel.