Negotiations between Mediacom, KBJR get testy
Negotiations between Granite Broadcasting Corp. and Mediacom over how much the cable provider should pay to carry Duluth's KBJR-TV have turned heated as they near a Sunday deadline.
Mediacom is accusing Granite of asking for a 100 percent fee increase for Mediacom to carry Duluth-based KBJR 6, My9 and Range 11 programming — including NBC shows — on Mediacom's cable systems in Cloquet and Proctor, on the Iron Range and in some other Northland communities.
Granite, the owner of KBJR, has fired back that it is Mediacom that is holding up the negotiations.
The end result, if they don't strike deal by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, is that Northlanders who get their TV through Mediacom may not get to watch NBC shows or KBJR, My9 and Range 11's local and syndicated programming.
"Granite is seeking in excess of a 100 percent rate increase over our current contract for the continued carriage of KBJR, so it is really the hard-working residents of the Iron Range who should be disappointed in how these negotiations are progressing," Thomas Larsen, Mediacom's group vice president of legal and public affairs, said in a statement to the News Tribune. "It is Mediacom's goal to provide our customers with a great programming lineup at a reasonable price. When the channel owners ask for more money, we negotiate with them in an effort to keep the costs our customers ultimately pay as low as possible."
Larsen accused Granite of trying to hold Mediacom customers "hostage'' so Granite "can extract a higher price for their product than if they relied on objective criteria to value their stations such as ratings, quality of content, etc."
Larsen told the News Tribune that if negotiations fall through, Mediacom would want to import an out-of-market NBC station to replace KBJR — but federal laws prevent it from doing so. The laws give KBJR exclusive broadcast rights to NBC programming in the Duluth market, he said. That would mean no NBC programming over cable for Mediacom customers in the Northland until an agreement is reached — although they still could access NBC shows using Mediacom's "TV Everywhere" apps, Larsen said.
Duane Lammers, chief operating officer for Granite, told the News Tribune that Mediacom did not appear to be responding to Granite's most recent offer.
"It's pretty hard to negotiate when there are no communications," Lammers said Friday afternoon.
In a formal statement posted on the KBJR website, Granite officials said that "we have tried hard to reach a fair agreement with Mediacom so that our viewers would not miss any of our stations' around-the-clock news coverage, weather emergencies, public service announcements and favorite local, KBJR 6 and Range 11 and My 9 programming," the company said. "Thus far, we are disappointed in the lack of progress in our negotiations, especially since we have successfully reached deals with every major cable, satellite and telecommunications company that recognizes our fair market value."
The company added that it "will continue to negotiate with Mediacom. Unfortunately, we do not know if, or when, an agreement will be reached. In the meantime, we hope you will continue supporting local television and watch us through alternative means including free over-the-air service via antenna, through DirectTV, Dish Network or another cable provider."
The dispute also involves Granite stations in Peoria, Ill., and Fort Wayne, Ind., Larsen said.