COLUMBIA — KOMU-TV and Mediacom agreed Friday on a retransmission agreement for programming of KOMU 8, Mid-Missouri's CW and Universal Sports.
Negotiations began in July for the contract and had to be extended over the weekend before programming expired on Tuesday morning at 12:01 a.m.
"We are extremely happy to reach a fair and mutually beneficial agreement with Mediacom," KOMU 8 General Manager Marty Siddall said. "We are pleased that our audience and their subscribers will again be receiving NBC programming, local news, weather, sports and public services information. We appreciate the patience of our viewers and look forward to being a welcome guest in their homes again."
During the past couple of weeks, several offers were made and declined by both parties. Issues regarding how much KOMU was requesting for programming compensation and contract length were among the reasons for the difficulty during contract discussions.
"Both parties are relieved that they were able to come to a mutually beneficial agreement." said Matt Garrett, the director of audience development at KOMU. "We are happy about the three-year contract."
Programming will resume Friday evening on the KOMU 8 channel. According to Mediacom's news release, additional terms of the agreement will not be disclosed.
"We're pleased that we have gotten this agreement reached," Mediacom spokeswoman Phyllis Peters said.
Earlier Friday afternoon, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster involved himself in the negotiations between Mediacom and KOMU. In a letter to Tom Larsen, Mediacom's vice president of legal and public affairs, Koster expressed his concern for mid-Missouri Mediacom subscribers.
"Consumers must not be the ones to bear the risk when negotiations break down in a contractual business dispute," Koster said in the letter to Larsen.
Koster went on to request several things in the letter from Larsen and Mediacom:
- A written confirmation of substitute programming with which Mediacom is filling the previous KOMU channels.
- An additional confirmation that the substitute service won't be limited to those customers with digital service.
- For the duration of the dispute, Mediacom will make On-Demand boxes available to all customers without charge for one year.
- An evaluation of Mediacom's ability to provide a "pro-rata service credit" to all mid-Missouri subscribers. This credit would be based on how long the negotiations lasts.
- A reporton Mediacom's "willingness" to credit its customers with the rebate.
- A detailed analysis for every channel on the equation used to determine programming rates that customers are charged. He went on to specifically point out the analysis on KOMU and Mid-Missouri CW in regards to what subscribers have to pay for those channels. Koster's office will use this data to make an assessment of feasibility for Mediacom Communications providing a service credit.
Koster wasn't alone in his efforts to protect cable customers from cable blackouts over retransmission fee contracts. In early December, the FCC announced efforts to better protect consumers from dropped programming.
Across the country, more and more networks are negotiating for new retransmission deals with cable providers. How the government responds to these deals varies.
"It depends on where the network is located," Peters said. "It could be state or local government that has the responsibility."
While Mediacom had filled the three channels with substitute programming, Koster acknowledged the difference between the substitutions and the previous programming.
"Even with these accommodations, Missouri subscribers are still being deprived valuable programming in the form of local news and weather, syndicated programming and live NBC national programming, including the upcoming weekend NFL playoff games," Koster said in his letter.
Mediacom had already taken action regarding the NFL playoff games before the deal was reached by hosting a "Wildcard Watch" party at Harpo's Sports Bar on Saturday. After reaching the agreement, Mediacom invited KOMU employees to the party.