Nexstar lashes out against Cox in increasingly ugly retrans battle

Nexstar Broadcasting further inflamed its retransmission licensing impasse with Cox Communications, accusing the MSO of making "mischaracterizations" of the station owner and threatening it with a cease and desist order on making future comments.

Nexstar's statement comes a day after Cox publicly asked federal regulators to reject Nexstar's $4.6 billion acquisition of Media General. Previous to Cox's statement, Nexstar had given Cox through the end of today to carve out a renewal to an expiring retrans contract, otherwise it said it would black out nine network affiliates on the MSO. 

Referring to Cox's announcement, a Nexstar statement said: "Cox mistakenly claims in today's release that, 'Cable TV/Satellite customers [will be] forced to pay more with the Nexstar merger.' In fact, the reason that Cox unilaterally raises the rates to its subscribers is related to the gross mis-allocation by Cox of its programming fee payments to programming with marginal viewership relative to the network and local community programming that Nexstar provides.

"Across the U.S., broadcast stations and station groups, including Nexstar, generate approximately 35 percent of household viewing, yet local broadcasters in aggregate received on average about 12 percent of the total distribution revenue from cable, satellite and telecom providers such as Cox," Nexstar said. "Inexplicably, Cox (through charges to its subscribers) pays The Walt Disney Company nearly $8.00 per household per month for carriage of ESPN and Turner Broadcasting more than $1.65 per household per month for TNT."

A "New Nexstar" would control 171 stations in more than 100 markets across the U.S., reaching 39 percent of U.S. TV homes -- the top of the threshold allowed by the FCC. It would be a formidable negotiating opponent for any pay-TV operator to face in a broadcast retransmission licensing negotiation. 

"Nexstar should not be allowed to become a larger company, which would force more cable TV/satellite companies and ultimately customers to pay higher fees for retransmission consent," Cox said in its Wednesday statement. "This merger is bad for business, bad for consumers and is not in the public interest."

On Friday, a Cox spokesperson told FierceCable: "We still think [asking for triple rate increases] is unreasonable, and based on what we are already seeing, that the merger will be harmful to consumers."

For more:
- read this Nexstar press release

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