RETRAINS WARS

Allbritton, Comcast Complete Retrans Deal

The multi-year agreement covers Allbritton’s ABC affiliates in Washington; Harrisburg, Pa.; Lynchburg, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Little Rock, Ark., in addition to its Washington cable news channel.

After months of negotiations, Allbritton Communications has closed a multi-year retransmission consent agreement with Comcast.

Comcast also renewed its carriage agreement with Allbritton’s cable news channel, TBD TV (formerly NewsChannel 8) in Washington.

The parties came to terms in late December but finalized those deals on Tuesday (Jan.18), according to Jerry Fritz, senior vice president of  Allbritton Communications.

“Coincidentally, we signed the deals the same day that the FCC and Justice Department approved the Comcast-NBCU merger,” Fritz says.

The retrans agreement covers Allbritton’s ABC affiliates in Washington; Harrisburg, Pa.; Lynchburg, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Little Rock, Ark.

Fritz declined to reveal any specific details of the retrans or carriage deals.  “I can’t get into any details, but there is compensation for both the cable news channel and the television stations,” he says, adding that both are long-term deals but not the same length.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

“It was a win-win for both Comcast and us. We’re delighted that in the end Comcast recognized the high value service NewChannel 8 provides,” Fritz says.

Negotiations were tense at times, especially after Comcast insisted on tying the retransmission consent deal for Allbritton’s local TV stations with TBD TV’s carriage renewal agreement.

Frustrated, the group broadcaster launched a major advertising campaign expressing opposition to the proposed Comcast-NBCU merger.

The station group ran ads on Washington radio stations and in its co-owned Politico newspaper, citing the damaging impact a Comcast NBCU merger would have on the Washington market.

Allbritton also urged the FCC to impose certain conditions on the merger including protections for TBD TV and other local news channels that might compete with NBC’s O&Os.

Allbritton wanted to close a deal with Comcast before the NBCU merger was sanctioned.

Says Fritz: “But for the acquisition, these would have probably been smoother negotiations, but because of the pendency of the acquisition, that raised our concerns considerably and that’s why we needed to get this deal done prior to the acquisition.”

The FCC and Justice Department approved the Comcast-NBCU merger, but with many conditions including those aimed at protecting “the integrity of over-the-air broadcasting, network-affiliate relations and fair and equitable retransmission consent negotiations” between the affiliates and Comcast.


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