June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Stations may leave local cable

By MARIA KACIK | Staff Writer

WADSWORTH — Customers of Wadsworth Cable, the city’s cable service, may not be able to access two local stations as early as Thursday when the company’s contract with the stations expires.

Wadsworth Cable is in negotiations with Raycom Media, owner of CBS 19 (WOIO) and WUAB-TV. The three-year retransmission and consent agreement — which outlines the conditions for Wadsworth to retransmit Raycom’s signal to its customers — is set to expire Jan. 1, WOIO reported on its Web site, www.woio.com.

Conneaut Telephony Co., which owns Suite 541 Cable that provides cable service to subscribers in Conneaut, Ohio, is engaged in similar negotiations with Raycom and also could lose the two stations Thursday, WOIO reported.

Chris Easton, Wadsworth’s service director, said the negotiations have come down to issues of price and quality.

“They have requested pricing that exceeds that of some of the neighboring broadcasters,” Easton said. Wadsworth already has concluded negotiations with each of the other 14 over-the-air broadcasters, like WKYC, Fox, PBS and Univision.

Easton noted not all over-the-air broadcasters require a retransmission and consent contract in which the cable company purchases the right to broadcast the stations to its subscribers. Other over-the-air broadcasters opt for “must carry” contracts, in which the broadcaster provides the signal free of charge, but the provider is required to carry it, he said.

Easton said Wadsworth customers of CBS 19 and WUAB have experienced quality problems — such as the pixilation of the stations’ digital signal.

Lisa McManus, programming director for CBS 19 and WUAB, said she was unable to comment on the specific details of the negotiations. Most of the negotiations, she said, are happening at the corporate level between Raycom and Wadsworth.

Raycom could not be reached Tuesday.

“While we allow all our viewers to take the programming for personal use for FREE by using an antenna, we won’t allow anyone to take the signal and resell it to the public. But Conneaut Telephone Company (aka Cable Suite 541) and Wadsworth Cable TV believes it should take our programming and charge people to see it, without compensating us for the programs,” information on the WOIO Web site says. “We are fighting to protect our rights. We are fighting to receive fair compensation.”

CBS 19 and WUAB are notifying their audience of the negotiations through on-air spots, Web articles and scrolling announcements during news broadcasts.

“We’re just advising that there’s likelihood they may not have the channels. We put it on the air just so customers know this,” McManus said.

Wadsworth has filed for a three-month contract extension in order to ensure Wadsworth Cable subscribers receive the channels while the negotiations continue. Easton said Tuesday he did not know if the extension would be granted.

He said costs of cable have been going up across the board in recent years. He said when Wadsworth Cable was established in 1997, the company was paying $9 a subscriber for programming per month. None of the over-the-air broadcasters received compensation then, he said. In 2009, Wadsworth Cable will pay $25 per subscriber per month for programming.

“We’ve tripled our programming costs in that 10-year period,” he said.

Kacik may be reached at 330-721-4049 or mkacik@ohio.net.