WOW! battling Meredith amid relatively light turn-of-the-year retrans fighting

WOW
(WideOpenWest)

Amid what is relatively light turn-of-the-year infighting between broadcasters and their MVPD partners, WideOpenWest-owned Atlanta-area operator NuLink has lost access to local CBS affiliate WGCL-TV and its sister network Peachtree TV.

"As a local broadband and cable company, NuLink's goal is to provide our customers with the best television viewing experience at the best possible value," said Teresa Elder, who took over as CEO of WOW! last month, in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Meredith Corporation continues to make unreasonable demands, which made it impossible for us to agree to their new terms without negatively impacting our customers' service or increasing their monthly bills. Rest assured, we are working incredibly hard to reach an agreement that is fair and in our customers' best interests."

WOW! purchased NuLink from New York private equity firm Halyard Capital in August 2016 for an undisclosed sum, entering around 34,000 homes in the suburban Atlanta region. 

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Meredith released its own statement saying it unsuccessfully negotiated with WOW! over broadcast retransmission terms for months.

Outside of the Meredith-WOW! battle, the program licensing battle lines have been fairly quiet. Cox Media Group’s CBS station KIRO-TV went dark for Frontier Communications’ Fios customers after the provider and the broadcaster were unable to reach terms on a new deal. And premium channel Starz was blacked out on Altice USA cable systems at the turn of the new year. At this time last year, there were around half a dozen program licensing disputes raging.

Regardless, with pay TV operators simultaneously announcing their usual new-year rate increases, the American Cable Association put down some cover fire, releasing a statement Monday. 

“Our members are small and mid-sized cable companies whose primary goal in these negotiations is to keep prices down and programs on the air for their customers,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka. “But this latest round of negotiations demonstrates once again that large corporate media conglomerates (particularly Hearst, Meredith, TEGNA, and Sinclair)—who are remotely headquartered and have little concern for the local communities our members serve—can and will force small cable operators to accept high double- and triple-digit percent increases to continue carrying their signals.

“With ACA members unable to fully absorb these cost increases and stay in business, the real victims of the broadcasters’ greed are consumers who will see cable subscription rates rise in 2018. Don’t blame cable; blame the broadcasters,” Polka added.