KXAN Vs. Cable

A retrans­mission fees fight

The dispute between NBC affiliate KXAN and a Williamson Co. cable system escalated last week, when Suddenlink replaced KXAN on the dial with the NBC station based in Temple.

KXAN owner LIN TV and Suddenlink, which operates cable systems around the country, have been locked in negotiations over retransmission fees – the fees paid by the cable system to carry stations. Suddenlink is battling LIN in Albuquerque, as well as its system in Williamson County, which covers about 30,000 subscribers in Georgetown, Pfluger­ville, and Leander.

While disputes between stations and cable operators are common, tensions have escalated in recent years, as revenue-hungry stations and channels like ESPN and the NFL Network push for larger payments from cable systems. Stations like KXAN could invoke a "must carry" provision, which requires cable systems to transmit local channels, but stations prefer to work out compensation deals.

"This is not groundbreaking compensation we're asking for," said KXAN General Manager Eric Lassberg, adding that cable systems around the country have agreed to similar terms (details of retransmission deals are closely guarded secrets).

By replacing KXAN with the Temple station, KCEN, Sudden­link played its trump card, offering its customers NBC programming without KXAN or its local news. LIN fired back this week, offering cable subscribers a $50 prepaid MasterCard for switching to Dish Network, the satellite service that still carries KXAN. LIN said in a statement that Suddenlink "has made it clear that it does not value or understand the importance of local stations."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

KXAN, Suddenlink, Eric Lassberg, KCEN

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