COLUMBIA — Early on Tuesday morning Mediacom subscribers were left looking at a blank screen on channels 5, 7 and 85. As the contract negotiation extension deadline ended, KOMU programming was pulled from the lineup for Mediacom customers.
Missouri joins four other states across the nation with network blackouts in 2011, according to a press release by the American Television Alliance.
Both Mediacom and KOMU, an NBC affiliate, are consistent in saying that negotiations are continuing about programming compensation but that KOMU programs will be out during these conversations. Now, after several proposals have been rejected by both parties, Mediacom is coming forward about issues that occurred during the negotiation process.
"We did not want to accept a one-year agreement with KOMU," Mediacom spokeswoman Phyllis Peters said. "We offered arbitration twice, and it was rejected both times by KOMU."
Matt Garrett, KOMU's director of audience development, has been at the Columbia television station offices for much of the past two days.
"We were still talking early this morning and offered another proposal but have yet to hear back from Mediacom," Garrett said.
Garrett has been one of a few KOMU staff members answering phone calls and questions from viewers. Garrett said the phones have been consistently ringing all day, with the most prevalent questions regarding where to get local news.
The Mediacom support staff has been fielding questions on its forums and Twitter account since the drop occurred. The Twitter account MediacomSupport has answered all tweets regarding the programming change with, "We apologize and are working quickly to reach an agreement with KOMU as soon as possible."
Customers are not satisfied by this response. Columbia resident Amanda Vandertuig is one of the many Twitter users who tried to communicate with MediacomSupport.
"It's your job to fix the problem," VanderTuig said. "It's my job to watch television."
VanderTuig has been a Mediacom customer since 2004 and said she is planning to change to CenturyLink if an agreement isn't reached soon.
Columbia resident Richard Lebens went to the Mediacom office in Columbia on Tuesday afternoon to find out more information on the situation.
"It's silly, because it seems like they will come to an agreement," Lebens said. "I just want to have my NBC."
In an effort to appease Mediacom customers in Columbia, the cable provider is offering a yearlong deal for a free digital cable box. This box will give subscribers access to the NBC shows offered on the company's on-demand video service. Mediacom is also working on filling the three empty channels.
"These channels will not necessarily be replaced with broadcast programming," Peters said. "There's a chance for high-quality family programming, but nothing has been finalized."