EchoStar 4 short of full house
Chris-Craft, Clear Channel among those still negotiating local TV rights deals
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/4/2000 8:00:00 PM
Satellite TV company EchoStar Communications Corp. last week avoided massive cut-offs of local TV subscribers, announcing it had carriage deals or negotiating extensions with all but four of the TV stations it needs.
EchoStar had until May 29, according to a satellite TV reform law passed in November, to ink agreements with owners of 125 TV stations in 28 markets so that it could continue to lawfully retransmit those signals into the markets.
It came down to the wire, but the company managed to get everyone on board except four stations: Landmark's WTVF(TV), CBS affiliate in Nashville, Tenn.; Clear Channel's WFTC(TV), FOX affiliate in Minneapolis; and Chris-Craft's KTVX(TV), ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City; and WWOR(TV), UPN affiliate in New York City. At press time, EchoStar had turned wftc back on.
"If even one customer is without channel for even one minute, that's one minute too long," said EchoStar Senior Vice President David Moskowitz. "We, as a company, are disappointed that there are a couple of broadcasters who have decided to hold their customers ransom instead of entering into fair negotations."
Meanwhile, broadcast executives say they offered EchoStar extensions that EchoStar refused to take.
Landmark is directing callers to a recorded message saying "Dish Network flatly refused this [7-day] extension and terminated carriage of wtvf."
Both companies agree Landmark wants carriage for Landmark's NewsChannel 5+. EchoStar says carrying the regional cable news channel, which would take up one satellite channel with a national footprint, would increase costs of EchoStar's service to everyone in the Nashville area.
In Minneapolis, Clear Channel's Steve Spendlove listed negotiating points the two companies couldn't get past; for instance, he wants EchoStar to put a fiber-optic cable in his station to deliver the signal to EchoStar's uplink facility. EchoStar balked at the cost.
Spendlove also said the two sides hadn't even begun discussions about the cash that will change hands, while EchoStar says Spendlove is demanding carriage fees retroactive to Nov. 29-when the law allowed satellite TV companies to begin carrying the signals and gave them a six-month grace period.
Spendlove says he expects to resolve the issue and eventually give EchoStar the right to carry his Minneapolis signal.
Chris-Craft also blamed EchoStar for terminating its signals.
"DISH Network was offered a short-term agreement by us for delivery of wwor and ktvx into our markets," according to a statement issued by Chris-Craft/United Television. "This would have allowed uninterrupted delivery of the stations while negotiations continued. DISH Network refused that offer and instead has chosen to shut off delivery."
Chris-Craft estimates that 40,000 New York viewers and 3,000 Salt Lake City viewers will be affected by the cut-offs.
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