As many of you know, KTTW has been blocking Mediacom customers from watching their station. Pursuant to an outdated federal law known as retransmission consent (or “retrans” for short), we can’t carry a station unless the owner grants us permission to do so. Since October, KTTW’s owner, Independent Communications, has refused to allow us to carry your local Fox affiliate.
In the spirit of trying to get KTTW returned to our channel lineup, we have made multiple attempts, most recently via letter dated January 12th, to contact the owners of Independent Communications to discuss resolving this dispute. Instead of negotiating with Mediacom directly, Independent Communications has referred us to an outside consulting firm named MAX Retrans, a group that touts itself by saying “the name of the company says it all.” Under the MAX Retrans business model, the higher the price for KTTW goes, the more money they get paid.
Despite making multiple increased financial offers to KTTW over the past several months, we continue to be spurned by an ownership group that does not want to actively engage in the negotiating process and rebuffed by an outside consulting firm motivated by maximizing its commission.
Please know that we share your frustration and are very sorry that you have been pulled into this fight. On your behalf, we are going to continue the fight for fair and equitable rates because we know that money is coming directly from the pockets of the hard working South Dakota and Minnesota residents that we serve.
Below we answer some of your topline questions:
What channels does Independent Communications own?
KTTW-FOX (Sioux Falls, SD)
Why is Independent Communications threatening to pull KTTW off of the Mediacom Channel lineup?
Blackouts are an increasingly common negotiating tactic that channel owners use to force cable and satellite companies to pay unreasonable rate increases on during contract renewals. Independent Communications believes that by threatening to hold Mediacom customers hostage they can extract a higher price for their product than if they relied on objective criteria to value their stations such as ratings, quality of content, etc.
Why doesn’t Mediacom just pay what Independent Communications is demanding so that I can continue to get the shows I want to watch?
It’s our goal to provide you with a great programming lineup at a reasonable price. When the channel owners ask for more money, we negotiate with them in an effort to keep the costs you ultimately pay as low as possible. Many channel owners routinely demand rate increases, but Independent Communications is going above and beyond by demanding over a 200% rate increase for KTTW. In fact, Independent Communications wants Mediacom to pay more for KTTW than any other broadcast station that Mediacom carries in the 22 states that we serve.
If Independent Communications pulls its TV station from Mediacom, why not just replace it with another local market station?
Mediacom would do that, but the individual TV stations have exclusive broadcasting rights over the affiliated network and syndicated programming they air in their markets. Under existing federal law, the owners can prevent Mediacom from replacing your local broadcast station with the signal of an out of market broadcast station. In short, local broadcast stations have been given monopoly power by the federal government and they use that power to squeeze more money out of cable and satellite customers and their customers.
Why shouldn’t I switch providers so I can continue to get the shows I want to watch?
We are doing everything we can to keep KTTW in your lineup under terms that are fair to you. Should Independent Communications reject our proposal, you should not switch TV providers for a couple reasons:
1. Our competitors are often targets for situations very similar to this one. In fact, Independent Communications blacked out KTTW from Dish Network customers in 2013. Nationally, there have been over 550 broadcast station blackouts since the beginning of 2012, and most have involved either Dish Network or DirecTV. If you choose a provider that still has your favorite stations, you may be impacted by this same situation at a later time.
2. When consumers switch providers as a result of a carriage negotiation, they are essentially enabling the anti-consumer pay-TV model that exists today. Media conglomerates like Independent Communications can squeeze more money out of consumers if they can rely on them to switch every time a provider doesn’t agree to unreasonable terms.