Cox Communications seems to have struck a raw nerve at Nexstar today as the companies approach tomorrow’s expiration of their five-year-old retransmission consent deal. Both sides warn that if there’s no resolution, the broadcaster’s stations could go dark on the cable service in nine markets including Las Vegas, Phoenix and Baton Rouge, LA.
The cable company riled Nexstar by calling on viewers to ask the FCC to block the broadcaster’s just-announced $4.6 billion agreement to buy Media General.
“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 today. “This merger is bad for business, bad for consumers and is not in the public interest.”
It says that Nexstar wants to triple the price Cox pays for stations. Some of them, notably Las Vegas, are CBS affiliates, raising the possibility that an extended fight could leave some Cox customers scrambling to watch Super Bowl 50, which the network will broadcast on February 7.
Nexstar cried foul, though, saying it “intends to pursue any and all methods of recourse to cause Cox to cease and desist making future mischaracterizations.”
It said the cable company “unilaterally raises the rates to its subscribers” because it pays too much for “programming with marginal viewership relative to the network and local community programming that Nexstar provides. … Unfortunately Cox management fails to consider reasonable business logic and reliable viewership data in determining what’s best for their viewers and instead chooses to finger point at the very source of its programming and content with the highest viewership.”
Nexstar adds that it “offered Cox the same rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it successfully completed negotiations” in December.
Nexstar says it’s “hopeful” that they can iron out their differences by Friday night. But if they can’t, it will “actively educate consumers in affected markets on how they can continue to receive” network and local programming.