Newport, Cable One Square Off on Retrans

Stations go dark in Mobile, Memphis and Tulsa

Several Newport Television stations have gone dark for Cable One subscribers after Newport and the cabler failed to iron out a new retransmission consent contract late Wednesday. The affected stations are WPTY and WLMT Memphis, KOKI and KMYT Tulsa, and WPMI Mobile. (Newport says WJCT Mobile is also affected, while Cable One says it doesn't carry the independent station.)

"Newport presented a very, very fair offer that no other cable or satellite operator has found objectionable," says Newport VP of Operations Michael DiPasquale. "They refused it."

Cable One spokesperson Melany Stroupe says Newport's demand of over a million dollars is hardly fair. "It's way more than other broadcasters are asking," she says. "We're willing to pay, but in this economy, we can't pay an excessive fee."

Cable One has held a hard line in retrans battles in the past, taking negotiations with Meredith's KPHO Phoenix down to the wire before narrowly averting a signal shutoff late in 2008.

The Mississippi Press reports that Cable One is airing WDSU New Orleans, another NBC affiliate, in place of WPMI. WPMI VP/General Manager Shea Grandquest says New Orleans news, stemming from 90 minutes away, would have limited value in the affected Pascagoula, MS area. "I assume [Cable One] will get some calls," he says. "I hope they do."

DiPasquale is hopeful the Newport signals will soon return to Cable One subscribers. "We would love to get a deal done," he says. "We're hoping."

Stroupe says there's some ways to go before the parties find common ground. "They're being greedy," she says.