DUNCAN — (Editor’s note: Indications are the CableOne cable TV provider that serves Duncan and Marlow will be losing three state channels that will be replaced by channels in Wichita Falls, Texas. This is the first part of a continuing series examining the potential change.)
Retransmission consent agreements between CableOne and three Oklahoma broadcasters aren’t happening, and come Jan. 1, 2012, area subscribers in the Duncan and Marlow area will be watching news broadcasts from Texas instead of Oklahoma.
Stations involved are NBC KFOR Channel 4, CBS KWTV Channel 9 and FOX KOKH Channel 12. Area subscribers will lose access to those stations, and it appears consumers will not be able to change the outcome.
CableOne’s National Media Director Melanie Stroup said the Oklahoma networks aren’t to blame and the issue lies with the FCC and Nielsen’s. She said the situation has been ongoing for years.
“Unfortunately, you guys (Duncan and Marlow) fall into the Wichita Falls, Texas, DMA (Designated Market Area),” Stroup said Monday, from her office in Arizona.
Duncan City Manager Jim Frieda and Marlow City Manager Janice Cain, said they received letters Friday regarding the negotiations from Duncan’s General Manager Deron Lindsay.
Cain said Lindsay’s letter, dated Dec. 1, informed her Friday was his last day with the company, which was confirmed by the Duncan CableOne office Monday. Stroup also confirmed Lindsay has left the company to begin a position with an unnamed company.
While Frieda discussed the issues of the franchise agreement, Cain took a more personal approach to the loss of the stations.
“We’re having to fight for Oklahoma City stations,” Cain said, adding that she doesn’t believe CableOne is the “bad guy” in this issue.
Noting the situation comes down to money, Cain said, “The networks are holding everybody hostage, in my opinion.”
Again, Stroup said fault doesn’t fall in the networks laps. “There’s two issues at play here,” she said. “The FCC decides which DMA you are in. Your networks in Wichita Falls can have a non-duplication status and so your Oklahoma City stations are duplications.”
She confirmed the Wichita Falls networks are requesting the non-duplication status.
Frieda said he was told Friday that talks between CableOne and the Oklahoma networks were ongoing. “They (CableOne) are in negotiating stages with what they can afford or not afford for their customers,” he said.
However, Stroup said negotiations are completed and there was no chance CableOne will keep the Oklahoma City news market in which Duncan and Marlow fall.
News of the possibility of losing the stations was published in legal notices published in The Banner Wednesday. The notices did not indicate negotiations in progress, only that the Oklahoma stations would not be available after Dec. 31.
According to the letter issued by Lindsay, in 1992, Congress adjusted the laws giving broadcasters the favorable advantage to demand cash for service providers like CableOne to have the rights to carry the over-the-air signal. Rights renewals happen every three years and CableOne’s agreements with the three Oklahoma City broadcasters expire on Dec. 31.
“At CableOne, we are committed to providing our customers with the best TV programming at a reasonable price. Programming is our most expensive cost, which is why we negotiate hard with broadcasters for retransmission consent,” Lindsay noted in the letter.
Stroup said she is aware of the letter’s contents, but there are no negotiations at this point.
The letter further stated that CableOne hasn’t taken a video rate increase in more than two years, instead absorbing broadcaster rate increases without passing those along to customers.
“However, for 2012, broadcasters are increasing their demands and asking for triple-digit increases.”
Stroup did not provide the increase rates that were being sought.
The letter indicates if CableOne goes along with the demands, those increases are passed to customers. If not, the channels could be removed. Stroup said it wouldn’t matter since Wichita Falls networks are losing viewers when Duncan and Marlow customers are watching the Oklahoma channels. She said it is not in Wichita Falls best interest to allow Oklahoma broadcasters to continue duplication.
Cain has her own interpretation. “The area (residents) desire to stay with Oklahoma City stations for Oklahoma news. We want to know what our governor and legislators are doing. I believe CableOne has its hands tied,” he said.
Stroup didn’t have any solutions to how Duncan and Marlow could get their DMA status changed, only noting it has been under the Wichita Falls market for many years.