This article has been corrected to list the correct counties in the Louisville and Nashville designated market areas and to have the correct call letters for the My Network TV affiliate based in Nashville.
The new year will bring bills $3 or $8 higher for South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative Corp. cable television customers due to the rising cost of programming.
The co-op has wrapped up the last of several rounds of contract negotiations this year, with the last batch involving broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, FOX and My Network, said Kyle Jones, telcom manager for SCRTC.
“It was a tough year,” he said. “So many of the big (contracts) came due.”
The broadcast network talks were fairly uneventful in terms of confrontation, he said.
“Prices did go up, but we did negotiate what we felt were …. We did the best we could with the rates,” Jones said. “We’ve got a really weird system in that we sit in three [designated market areas] in two time zones.”
SCRTC’s customer area includes portions of three DMAs that are recognized by the Federal Communications Commission, so it was dealing with 22 stations altogether. The Bowling Green DMA includes Barren, Metcalfe and Hart counties; the Nashville DMA includes Monroe and Allen counties; and the Louisville DMA includes Green and Larue counties, he said.
“(Some of) these stations wanted fairly hefty increases,” Jones said. “They came in real high and we were able to knock some of them down. … The net effect was about $3 per customer.”
That was the price increase for the basic broadcast network package after SCRTC removed some stations, generally the ones based outside the DMA, he said.
“Folks that have expanded basic are going to see an additional $5 (increase),” Jones said.
The bulk of that $5 increase was for three major content providers – ESPN, Discovery and Scripps, the latter of which handles HGTV, DIY, Food, Great American Country and Travel – with which new contracts were negotiated this year. But some of it is from expected increases that were built into existing contracts, he said.
That is similar to what happened with the July increase of $6, most of which was a result of Viacom negotiations, but some of which was already known to be coming, he said.
Customers have already been notified of the new increase, which will be effective Jan. 1, he said.
Other than the removal of some stations from some DMAs, nothing else will change about the channel packages, Jones said, and every DMA will still have at least one option for each of the “Big 6” networks.
“As a cable operator, you can’t really go without offering these major channels,” Jones said.
Staying or going?
ABC – “We’re going to have to pull out the ABC programming from WBKO for the Louisville and Nashville DMAs,” Jones said. “We originally thought we were going to have to pull (that) programming altogether, but through negotiations with WBKO, they allowed us to at least keep the local and syndicated shows for those two DMAs.”
Nashville DMA customers will still be able to access ABC programming from their in-market affiliate, WKRN, and Louisville DMA consumers can still access ABC programming through their in-market affiliate, WHAS.
Nothing changes in regard to WBKO programming for SCRTC customers in the Bowling Green DMA.
CBS – No changes are planned for the CBS affiliates for any DMA.
NBC – Nashville-based NBC affiliate WSMV is being dropped from the Bowling Green DMA, “largely due to the high cost,” Jones said. “We chose to save a little money.”
SCRTC’s contract with Bowling Green-based WNKY is a little different because it spans four years instead of three, so the contract has another year remaining.
Bowling Green and Nashville DMA customers will have access to NBC programming from WNKY and Louisville-based WAVE, he said, while the Louisville DMA will only access it through WAVE.
CW – No changes are planned for the CW affiliates.
FOX – Louisville-based WDRB is being dropped in the Bowling Green DMA. Jones said it wanted substantially more money, and all of its FOX programming – including sports and evening prime time – had to be blocked for the past three years anyway to avoid duplication, so all SCRTC customers could access was local programming.
He said SCRTC hated to make the choice, but decided it was better to save the money and drop it altogether.
WDRB is still available for the Louisville DMA; Bowling Green-based WBKO FOX is still available in the Bowling Green DMA; and the Nashville DMA has WZTV.
My Network TV – Louisville-based WMYO is being replaced in only the Bowling Green DMA with new Bowling Green-based My Network affiliate WCZU. WMYO will still be available in the Louisville DMA, and WUXP remains for the Nashville DMA.