TWC and American Cable Association Ask FCC to Stop Mission’s Binghamton Station Buy

By Kevin Eck Comment

FCC_304Time Warner Cable and the American Cable Association are asking the FCC to deny Mission Broadcasting’s purchase of two Stainless Broadcasting stations in the Binghamton, NY, market.

In the petition, the two point out the deal, through sharing agreements with Mission, would essentially give Nexstar Broadcasting control of three of the four stations affiliated with major networks in that market.

As in similar petitions, the ACA is primarily looking to prevent station groups from gaining leverage when it comes to renegotiating retransmission deals and points a finger directly at Nexstar CEO Perry Sook for saying so, “Indeed, Nexstar’s CEO has acknowledged that a central rationale for the Mission-Stainless transaction is to use the leverage afforded by the combination of top-ranked stations in Binghamton to garner increased retransmission consent fees.”

The petition goes on to say the relationship between Nexstar and Mission will eventually harm consumers. “Even if the Commission accepts the assertion that Nexstar will not possess de facto control over the Mission stations-a legal fiction at best-the Commission should not permit multiple stations in a DMA that purport to be separately controlled competitors from combining or coordinating their retransmission consent negotiations. Such collusive behavior is blatantly anticompetitive and would result in significant harm to consumers.”

In addition, the petition also calls out Nexstar for what the TWC and the ACA are calling a bit of hypocrisy. “It is remarkable that Nexstar is the station group behind such a proposed combination of three Big Four network affiliates: when another broadcast group (Granite Broadcasting Corp.) obtained effective control over three Big Four signals in the Fort Wayne, IN DMA through similar sharing and multicasting arrangements (including by obtaining a Fox affiliation that had just been withdrawn from a Nexstar station), Nexstar responded by filing a federal antitrust lawsuit. The very same conduct that Nexstar characterized as violating the Sherman Act (among other laws) is now at the heart of its “sidecar” arrangement to acquire the two stations at issue from Stainless.”