Sinclair Readies Viewers for Blackout on West Coast Cable Provider

By Kevin Eck 

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s West Coast ABC affiliates KATU in Portland and KOMO in Seattle are letting viewers know they won’t be able to watch local programming if they subscribe to Frontier Communications cable beginning next year.

In an FAQ on the stations’ websites, Sinclair says the current retransmission agreement expires on December 31 and “the Station does not expect that the Station will be able to reach agreements with Frontier Communications that allows for further carriage of these stations,” says Sinclair.

“Every year, Frontier negotiates rates to carry cable networks and local TV stations to bring customers the best TV programming possible at the most reasonable prices,” a Frontier spokesperson told TVSpy. “We are currently negotiating renewal terms with KATU’s parent, Sinclair Broadcast Group. Frontier cannot accept unfair terms that would subject our customers to significant and unnecessary price increases. We remain committed to keeping our customers first and will work with Sinclair Broadcast Group toward a reasonable resolution.”

Frontier has a web page set up to keep its viewers updated.

“If, as the Station expects, there is no agreement on January 1, 2017, the Station would not characterize this as the stations “pulling its signal” or Frontier Communications “refusing to carry” the stations,” Sinclair writes in a statement posted to the stations’ websites. “This is simply the case of a buyer and seller being unable to agree on price, something that occurs every day in both commercial and consumer transactions.”

The Sinclair FAQ also goes into detail about why the station group doesn’t opt for “must carry” over the retransmission agreement.

“These stations chose not to elect must-carry in order to have the right to negotiate with the cable and satellite system to receive certain things, such as compensation and channel position, which it would not receive by making a must-carry election,” says the FAQ. “As a result of the stations’ retransmission consent election, the relationship between the stations and Frontier Communications is essentially the same as the typical commercial relationship that exists between any wholesaler attempting to sell its product to a retailer so that the retailer can then sell the product to consumers in its market.”