Proving that the fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington have nothing on them, Capitol Broadcasting Co. and Media General both reached last-minute deals late Monday night to keep their stations available to satellite and cable TV customers just as contracts were set to expire.
About 11:30 p.m., WRAL Vice President and General Manager Steve Hammel confirmed that parent company Capitol Broadcasting had reached a deal with DirecTV that would keep the local CBS affiliate WRAL and Fox affiliate WRAZ, both owned by Capitol, on the air for DirecTV customers without interruption.
Capitol also owns CBS affiliate WIML in Wilmington and CW affiliate WJZY in Charlotte.
WRAL had been airing commercials about the negotiations for more than a month leading up to the deadline, and even offered free HDTV antennas to DirecTV customers so that they could continue to watch WRAL and Fox 50 over the air in case a deal was not reached. DirecTV told its customers that they never remove local stations from their lineups. Instead, the DirecTV statement said, “the station owners decide whether or not their stations stay or go.”
About an hour before the WRAL statement, Media General and Time Warner Cable announced that they had reached a tentative deal that will keep local NBC affiliate WNCN available to Time Warner Cable customers. The two companies are still negotiating the particulars of a more permanent deal.
According to Time Warner Cable, Media General had requested a 200 percent fee increase from the cable company. Media General said the increase reflected “fair market value,” but the cable company said the demand was unacceptable. A press release from WNCN (NBC-17), issued just before Christmas, said, “It appears unlikely that a new agreement will be reached.”
But about 10:30 Monday night, WNCN tweeted, “NBC-17 and Time Warner Cable have reached an agreement that will keep NBC-17 programs on Time Warner with no interruption!”
At the same time, a statement from Time Warner Cable said, “While we work to finalize our agreement, our customers will continue to receive Media General programming without any disruption.”
No financial details of any of the deals were released.
WRAL, WRAZ and WNCN are all available free over the air.
Public disputes between stations or networks and cable or satellite carriers are becoming more and more common, and deals are not always made in time to prevent disruption. A DirecTV representative said at least 84 stations stopped transmitting on cable, satellite or telecom distributors in 2012 – up from 51 in 2011 and 12 in 2010.