Mediacom subscribers left with a blank screen

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 | 5:43 p.m. CST; updated 1:44 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 26, 2013

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."

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James Krewson January 5, 2011 | 11:04 a.m.

Why is this such a big deal? For a small amount of money you can get an indoor digital antenna and get the signal for free plus get 11 other local digital channels. Why waste your time calling Mediacom or KOMU? Are people that helpless? KOMU came in crystal clear for me this morning, and I didn't need Mediacom or KOMU to help me.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 5, 2011 | 12:09 p.m.

I went the route you suggest. I have a powered indoor antenna and get several digital channels, including KOMU and CW (the latter I almost never watch). I bought my antenna from Radio Shack awhile ago and paid less than $45 for it.

Reception of a channel using this antenna can vary, depending upon station location, location of the installation and any blockage by tall buildings, etc. If you go this route, get an agreement with the dealer that if you go home and can't get consistent signals, you will bring back the antenna for a refund.

If I stopped using the antenna tomorrow I would have gotten my money's worth. But I'll continue to use it.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield January 5, 2011 | 12:39 p.m.

On a 1080 TV, KOMU's OTA picture is visibly superior than the compressed Mediacom feed. But the other two channels -- which are lower resolution to begin with -- have an OTA picture that's on par with Mediacom's feeds.

(Report Comment)
roy willard January 6, 2011 | 7:51 a.m.

Actually I appreciate it that this forced me to check out other programming. I've learned that KMIZ offers more news, less fluff, and the Early Show is just as entertaining as the Today Show. It was time for me to make a change. Local news, lots of places to get that. I don't watch many NBC programs, anyway.

(Report Comment)
Kaleb Rippstein January 6, 2011 | 6:54 p.m.

James, why is it a big deal? Because some of us pay Mediacom $100 per month and we were promised NBC in return! Why should I have to go buy a digital antenna to get a channel I am already paying for? Mediacom has no right to allow this to happen without providing compensation to its subscribers. I don't have an extra $40 bucks to go buy an antenna.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 6, 2011 | 10:19 p.m.

Better read your contract, bet you don't have any recourse unless you want to drop Mediacom...

(Report Comment)

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