By KARLA POMEROY
TCT customers noticed Jan. 1 that they were still able to get ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC network stations out of Billings, but no longer have ABC out of Casper (KTWO).
TCT Network Manager Richard Wardell said they formally signed agreements with KSVI and KHMT. The two network stations had originally requested a 300 percent increase. “We’ve negotiated down from their original request but it’s still a huge increase,” he said.
As such, and in addition to regular incremental increases from other channels such as ESPN, Lifetime and RootSports, TCT has planned an increase to its broadband television customers, effective Feb. 1. A letter was sent Dec. 30, outlining the increases. The new rates are for Basic, Value, Lovell Cable TV, Expanded and Premium television packages. These are the only TCT services that will incur rate adjustments, In regard to broadband television monthly equipment pricing for HD and DVR are not increasing at this time.
Wardell said extensions with KULR through Jan. 15 and KTVQ through the end of the month have been granted as they continue to negotiate a new three-year agreement. He said the two stations want to continue to provide an off-air signal to Meeteetse that TCT provides.
“There’s a lot of discussion of what they provide and what we provide them,” Wardell said.
In regard to KTWO, Wardell said the company opted not to continue to carry the ABC affiliate since the programming duplicates programming offered from the Billings channel and that Casper is not in its direct market area.
Wardell said Casper is unhappy with TCT’s decision and as such blacked out KTWO in Ten Sleep, which is in the Casper direct market area and does not have Billings channels.
“We told them that with the price and quality of the signal, we can’t afford the price for duplication of services. If they are going to charge a premium price they need better delivery. We’ve had outages and problems with the equipment we pick up the signal from. We can’t afford to duplicate services for the same price with same programming except some different local news programming,” he said.
TCT is continuing to negotiate with Casper to bring KTWO back to its Ten Sleep broadband television customers.
Wardell noted that three Casper networks, including KTWO, have blacked out its stations with Worland’s Dish Network subscribers as well.
According to a photo on one of the Casper channels that was e-mailed to Wardell from a Worland Dish Network customer, the Dish Network notice states, “This station has blocked this channel after making outrageous rate demands. DISH Network has made numerous attempts to avoid interruption of service to our valued customers, including offering an extension. This offer was flatly refused. DISH Network remained available to negotiate over the holiday weekend but the station, unconcerned about its viewers refused to even answer the phone.”
More information on struggles of satellite and cable providers negotiating re-transmission agreements can be found at www.FairSatellite.com.
Wardell noted that prices from networks continue to rise even though there are other avenues for people to find programming, including online at sites such as hulu.com or even network websites for their own network shows.
“Stations are giving it away to those with antenna but companies wanting to provide better product and better signal are getting charged huge price,” Wardell said. “Our content does not have as much value as it used to be because of other avenues to get programming. We’re paying more for signals that are less valuable.”