Retransmission disputes usually end up with an 11th hour deal — but not this time for Cox Communications and Nexstar. Cox customers in nine markets lost access to Nexstar stations’ programming last night as their five year old carriage agreement expired with negotiators still at odds over terms to extend it.
As you’d imagine, each side blames the other for the impasse, and the blackout.
Cox says that “Nexstar has decided to remove their channels from the Cox line up.” And Nexstar says Cox “dropped the network and local community programming” in Las Vegas; Phoenix; Baton Rouge; Acadiana, LA; Pittsburg, KS; Roanoke, VA; Ft. Smith and Springdale, AR and Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Some of the stations, notably Nexstar’s station in 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.
Cox and Nexstar say that they’re eager to resolve the dispute. But they’re also engaged in PR campaigns to persuade the public to see the matter through their eyes.
Cox calls Nexstar the “latest station owner to rely on retransmission fees in an effort to boost their bottom line.” The broadcast group “has not changed [its] offer in two weeks and is still demanding three times more for its free over-the-air stations.”
Following Nexstar’s agreement this week to pay $4.6 billion in cash and stock for Media General this raises “the specter that they are using retransmission fees to fund these deals.”
Nexstar says that Cox is “routinely involved in disputes with content providers” with five local station blackouts since 2012. Cox also owns TV stations and in 2014 had two fights with pay TV distributors.
Nexstar adds that it offered Cox “the same rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it successfully completed negotiations with in December.”
The broadcaster took umbrage that Cox “publicly disparaged Nexstar and misled viewers as well as legislators and regulators, the investment community and the public at-large” by linking the Media General deal to the retransmission dispute.