Cash in Question in Comcast, Sinclair Retransmission Deal

Mar 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Comcast and Sinclair Broadcast Group reached an agreement on retransmission consent, but disagreed on whether one of the largest broadcasters received cash from the nation’s biggest cable operator.

In a statement, Comcast said it “achieved its objective of not paying cash for broadcast carriage that would need to be passed on to our customers.”

But Barry Faber, VP and general counsel of Sinclair, said Comcast’s statement “mischaracterized” the deal.

After completing the Comcast deal, Sinclair said it raised its estimate for 2007 retransmission revenues to $53 million from $48 million. The company said the $48 million figure included an estimate of how much it would get from Comcast.

Mr. Farber said the Comcast statement “is not a denial that Comcast agreed to pay cash, but instead represents a claim that any such payment will not need to be passed on to subscribers.”

He offered to provide a copy of the retransmission agreement, if Comcast was willing to waive a nondisclosure provision.

Sinclair has been one of the more aggressive broadcasters in seeking retransmission consent from cable operators, and it succeeded in winning payments after a long battle with Mediacom last month.

Today’s deal comes after the companies extended their previous retransmission agreement.

CBS recently reached agreements with a group of smaller cable operators in which the broadcaster was getting about 50 cents per subscriber for its retransmission consent.

Mr. Faber said the Comcast deal, and others that have recently been signed, represent a sea-change in the relationship between broadcasters and cable operators on retrans.

Comcast had no comment beyond its statement. CEO Brian Roberts has said the company’s policy is not to pay cash for retransmission consent.

The deal covers the analog and digital signals of 37 stations in 23 markets owned or operated by Sinclair. The agreement also provides for carriage of digital multicast signals currently broadcast in Baltimore and Richmond, Va., and certain other multicast channels Sinclair stations may broadcast in the future.

(Editor: Horowitz)