Comcast Corp. and Sinclair Broadcast Group agreed on a four-year extension of their retransmission agreement on March 9 that will keep Sinclair’s stations on Comcast cable systems reaching about 3.8 million customers in 23 markets.
Sinclair was ready to cut off Comcast on March 1 but extended the deadline to March 10 as talks continued.
Comcast said it "has achieved its objective of not paying cash for broadcast carriage that would need to be passed on to our customers" but agreed on a package that gave "comparable value."
But Sinclair’s VP and legal counsel Barry Faber said late Friday the Comcast statement was a "mischaracterization of the deal." He added, referring to the quote above, the "significant part of that sentence" may be that Comcast did not pay a cash payment "that would need to be passed on to their consumers." He strongly implied that Comcast had indeed paid. Retransmission cash "is our policy. We don’t do deals."
"Consisistent with our existing agreements with Sinclair and all of our other retransmission-consent agreements, comparable value is being exchanged," a Comcast spokeswoman said.
She stressed that the Sinclair-Comcast deal represents no "sea change" in the way Comcast is dealing with other broadcasters seeking retrans deals.
Many in the industry were closely following the negotiation. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable system, with 24.2 million subs, says it won’t pay retrans to broadcasters.
Sinclair was recently successful in getting cash from Mediacom, a smaller operator, and has been vocal on the issue.