KCRG cautions DISH viewers on deal holdup

Agreement extension expires on Dec. 18

KCRG TV9 alerted DISH Network viewers this week that KCRG could go dark on DISH if extended talks on a new retransmission agreement don't yield a new accord. The current extension expires at noon, Dec. 18.

A three-year retransmission deal that allowed DISH to carry KCRG, the market's ABC affiliate, was originally set to expire on Nov. 30. KCRG granted the satellite entertainment provider until Dec. 18 to avoid a disruption of service, according to KCRG.

Meridian, Colo.-based DISH Network is one of the nation's two major direct broadcast satellite providers. KCRG is owned by the Gazette Co. of Cedar Rapids, parent company of The Gazette.

In an on-air message to DISH subscribers, KCRG said the core dispute involves the price DISH is willing to pay the television station for rights to resell KCRG's signal, and DISH's refusal to provide KCRG 9.2, KCRG-TV's second channel that features live local sports and MyNetwork Affiliate programming.

Andrew LeCuyer, DISH vice president of programming, said “Cedar Rapids TV has threatened to block DISH customers’ access to its ABC affiliate (KCRG) unless DISH agrees to pay more than six times what it pays now for the same content. We understand local and network programming is important to our customers, and we must hold the line to deliver the value our customers expect from DISH.

LeCuyer added that “DISH has offered to pay Cedar Rapids TV a sizable rate increase that aligns with current market value. We have reached agreements with hundreds of stations throughout the country over the last year, so we know with certainty that our offers have been fair. We hope Cedar Rapids TV will adopt a more reasonable approach.”

KCRG-TV officials said that while the multiple of the increase might be high, it is coming from a low base because the revenue model of local broadcast stations is changing. Instead of receiving payments to carry network programming, for instance, local stations must now make substantial payments for programming to the networks.

Tim McDougall, vice president of products for the Gazette Co., said KCRG still hopes to reach an agreement before the extension expires.

"Sign on to sign off, we consistently have more viewers in this region than any other station, whether that station is a broadcast affiliate like us or a non-broadcast channel like ESPN," McDougall said. "DISH re-sells our signal to subscribers at a marked-up rate and, while we respect them as a partner, we believe they should pay a fair price for re-transmitting our signal.”

The amount KCRG-TV is asking for retransmission rights was not disclosed.

DISH viewers can continue to receive KCRG by adding an antenna, McDougall noted, or by switching to cable or another satellite provider.

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