WFLA-Ch. 8 tells viewers it may vanish from Verizon FIOS cable system Tampa Bay
WFLA-Ch. 8 is telling viewers it may vanish from the Tampa Bay area's Verison FIOS cable system, thanks to a conflict over extension of a retransmission agreement.
WFLA owner Media General issued a press release Monday saying its current retransmission agreement -- the accord allowing Verizon to carry WFLA on its system -- expires at 11:59 p.m. Saturday and "it appears unlikely that a new agreement will be reached." The company also carried such information on an onscreen "crawl" transmitted to viewers.
Such retransmission fights have grown more common between big national TV providers -- cable and broadcast companies such as Fox networks and ABC/Disney -- as the cable TV equation has shifted from systems retransmitting stations for free to companies demanding compensation as a way to create new revenue streams for TV station chains.
Earlier this year, Sinclair Broadcast Group had a similar fight with Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable, which didn't get resolved until mid-January. But both sides worked out interim agreements which kept Sinclair stations (including WTTA-Ch. 38 in Tampa) on the cable systems until an agreement was finalized.
One strategy for such struggles is to try mobilizing public opinion. So when such conflicts arise, both sides often create websites and publicity campaigns to try leveraging customer opinion.
A spokesman for Verizon would only say the company is "negotiating in good faith" with Media General and has hopes of working out an agreement. The company would not reveal how many Tampa Bay area homes might lose access to WFLA through its service, or comment on whether Media General is seeking compensation for its signal. There is a retransmission agreement in Providence, R.I. between the two companies which is also expiring at the same time.
WFLA issued a press release, complete with an online area where Verizon FIOS subscribers can register their disapproval over the situation.
The question, as always in such situations, is which company will blink first?
And how much will customers be inconvenienced in the meantime?
WFLA's press release is below:
WFLA-TV NBC/News Channel 8 Announces Retransmission Consent Contract with Verizon FIOS Expires December 31st
TAMPA, Fla. – WFLA-TV/News Channel 8, a Media General NBC affiliate in Tampa, today announced that its current retransmission consent contract with Verizon FIOS expires on December 31, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. (EST) and, at this time, it appears unlikely that a new agreement will be reached. If a new retransmission consent contract cannot be reached by the pending deadline, by law, Verizon FIOS cannot carry WFLA NBC/News Channel 8 (found on Channels 8 and 508) or Me-TV (found on Channel 460) on its system.
"Our highly-rated television station is an important asset to our local Tampa and St. Petersburg communities and it is unfortunate that Verizon FIOS does not recognize our value," said WLFA/News Channel 8 Interim General Manager John Cottingham. "We look forward to continuing negotiations with Verizon FIOS to reach a deal before our contract expires. In the event that our station is no longer carried by Verizon FIOS, viewers may continue to watch their local news, lifestyle and sports programs, as well as top-rated prime time and syndicated programming, over-the-air via antenna or by switching to an alternative pay-TV service provider.”
If a deal is not reached, WFLA/News Channel 8 viewers who subscribe to Verizon FIOS will lose the ability to watch News Channel 8 local news, The Today Show, NBC Prime programming, Sunday Night Football, NFL Playoffs, Super Bowl and many other favorite shows such as Dr. Oz through their Verizon FIOS connection.
About WFLA/News Channel 8
WFLA-TV is part of The Florida Communications Group (FCG), owned by Media General, which includes newspapers, broadcast television and online operations in West Central Florida. FCG incorporates Media General's converged operations in Tampa, including The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com, WFLA-TV (NBC) and CENTRO Tampa, a Spanish-language print and online media operation. Florida Communications Group also includes Highlands Today, Hernando Today, 12 weeklies, and several shopper and niche publications.