Hearst-Argyle Retrans Deal Excludes Lifetime


Broadcaster Hearst-Argyle Television has broken ranks with cable cousin Lifetime Television and cut a separate – and possibly lucrative -- retransmission-consent agreement with EchoStar.

In the deal, EchoStar could be paying Hearst-Argyle up to $11 million per year to carry its stations, but cuts corporate cousin Lifetime out of the retrans deal. That would be a big step up from what Hearst-Argyle has generated by letting Lifetime negotiate on its behalf with every major cable and DBS operator in the country.

The Hearst-Argyle agreement was signed Dec. 30, one day before EchoStar dropped  Lifetime from its 12-million-sub DBS operation.

For years, Lifetime – 50% owned by Hearst-Argyle controlling shareholder Hearst Corp.– has used the broadcasters’ retransmission consent power to get cable and DBS systems to pay up for its cable networks, including Lifetime Movie Network and  Lifetime Real Women.

Lifetime actually acted as Hearst-Argyle’s agent, negotiating deals with cable and DBS systems, then paying the broadcaster around $2 million a year.

But in a new Securities & Exchange Commission filing, Hearst-Argyle revealed that it has cut its own separate deal with EchoStar that could pay far more depending on the meaning of "less than."

Under the new arrangement, EchoStar is paying Hearst-Argyle an amount “less than 1.5%” of the broadcaster’s annual revenues to retransmit the broadcasters’ stations to DBS customers. The company did not specify exactly how much less than 1.5%  it was, but the full 1.5% would total around $11 million.

Lifetime wouldn’t discuss the deal, and Hearst executives could not be reached for comment.