By DAVID BORAKS
The CEO of MI-Connection warns that the Lake Norman-area cable TV network may have to drop Charlotte NBC affiliate WCNC from its lineup if the two sides can’t agree on a new contract by Jan. 31. The dispute is over how much MI-Connection will pay the broadcaster to keep carrying its signal.
MI-Connection, which has about 15,000 customers in the Lake Norman area, is in negotiating a new “retransmission consent agreement” with WCNC, Channel 36 (Channel 6 on cable), which is owned by, Texas-based Belo Corp.
MI-Connection’s contract with Belo expired Dec. 31, but the company granted an extension until Jan. 31, MI-Connection CEO David Auger, told the company’s board of directors Thursday.
Cable TV providers pay annual fees to carry local broadcast stations, and in recent years disputes like this one have not been unusual as traditional broadcast stations have pushed for higher fees. That’s the case with WCNC, Mr. Auger said.
“They’re demanding a 161 percent increase for 2013 over 2012, which is absurd. It’s outlandish. It far exceeds any amount that we pay for any other broadcaster,” Mr. Auger said. “We may be forced to drop them.”
“I’m preparing you for this, because it won’t be pretty. But I’m not going to pay a 161 percent increase,” Mr. Auger told the board.
WCNC is the No. 3 ranked station in the Charlotte market, by viewership. But it is seeking more than what MI-Connection pays the top station, WSOC-TV Channel 9, the ABC affiliate, Mr. Auger said.
In similar disputes, both cable companies and broadcast outlets sometimes use the airwave and advertising to battle it out.
We’ve got a call in to Belo’s corporate spokeswoman. We’ll update this story when we have more information.
MI-Connection also went past its Dec. 31 deadline with some local broadcasters a year ago, as well, but successfully negotiated new deals then.
Jan. 30, 2012, “Network center opens; MI-Connecting completes shift to standalone company.” – includes a reference to last year’s negotiations.
April 1, 2009, “New cost for cable operators: TV station fees.”