Kingman Cable company, affiliate at odds over fees for CBS
Unless deal reached, CBS will be off the air Sunday
KINGMAN - There is a real possibility that Suddenlink Cable customers who turn on their TVs New Year's Day will find one channel missing. Lifetime and MTV will still be there, but CBS may not.
The station is home to major sporting events, including the National Football League, NCAA March Madness and the Masters, as well as plenty of hit shows such as "60 Minutes," "CSI: Miami" and "Survivor."
Since October, Suddenlink and the Meredith Corporation - which owns KPHO CBS 5 - have been in contract negotiations to carry the signal. The current contract expires at midnight Saturday, and no deal is currently in place.
Last Thursday, KPHO CBS 5 released a statement saying it believes Suddenlink will drop the signal from systems serving Kingman, Lake Havasu City, Parker, Payson, Pine, Sedona and Strawberry once the contract expires.
Pete Abel, the senior vice president of corporate communications for Suddenlink, said negotiations between the two companies will continue. If an agreement isn't reached by the deadline, Abel said Suddenlink will ask Meredith for an extension in order to continue offering the signal to customers during negotiations.
Abel called KPHO CBS 5's news release a "negotiation tactic."
"We have no intention of dropping (the signal) unless we're forced," Abel said.
By law, Suddenlink cannot carry KPHO CBS 5 on its cable system without a contract.
According to KPHO CBS 5's release, cable companies and broadcast TV stations negotiate retransmission consent - the right for a cable company to carry copyrighted programs from the local stations - every three years.
Ed Munson, the vice president/general manager of KPHO CBS 5, said Meredith is seeking a 3-cents per cable bill increase for Suddenlink to continue carrying the signal. Meredith has successfully negotiated contracts with eight other cable and satellite providers across Arizona for rights to carry the signal, he said.
Suddenlink doesn't recognize the value of the station, Munson said. He points to the fact that cable companies, including Suddenlink, pay about $4 per household for rights to carry ESPN.
Day in and day out, ratings for CBS dwarf ESPN, as people tune in for a broad range of shows, Munson said. In fact, CBS is the No. 1 viewed station in Arizona, he added.
"Suddenlink is playing hardball," Munson said. "There is a heck of a gap to close within a few days."
Other than the 3-cents stipulation, Munson could not divulge anything about the negotiations for the contract renewal, which would last for three years once - and if - in place.
Munson maintains that the release was not a negotiating tactic but an attempt to notify consumers that if the station is pulled, there is a reason and it didn't just disappear. He added that the company already denied an extension request from Suddenlink earlier in the process and would most likely do so again.
"We have no interest in giving (Suddenlink) an extension," Munson said.