KTKA, the ABC affiliate serving the Topeka television market, is back on Dish Network after the two operators settled an impasse that had disconnected the station’s programming from subscribers since midnight Jan. 1.
Now that the station’s owner, Free State Communications LLC, has that issue settled, the company’s parent is continuing efforts to restore access to two Kansas City, Mo.-based stations for its own cable-television subscribers through Sunflower Broadband.
Sunflower, which is owned by The World Company — owner of both KTKA and the Journal-World — lacks a valid retransmission agreement to carry over-the-air signals of two stations owned by Hearst-Argyle Television Inc.: KMBC, an ABC affiliate previously shown on Sunflower’s channel 9; and KCWE, a CW affiliate that had been on channel 17.
A previous agreement expired at midnight Jan. 1, leaving Sunflower unable to carry the stations’ signals.
At issue is money. Neither side will disclose its offer, only to assert that the offers are commensurate with retransmission pacts that each side already has worked out with other companies.
Wayne Godsey, general manager for KMBC and KCWE, said Hearst-Argyle would create “quite a bit of bad feeling and controversy” by making an agreement that would be “substantially out of line” with others.
“The proposal we made to Sunflower is absolutely in line with what we have asked for — and received, by the way — from other cable systems, large and small, and from DirecTV and the Dish Network,” Godsey said.
He continued: “We don’t think that we have asked anything of Sunflower that is not appropriate and is not justified by the overall marketplace. It’s frustrating and, frankly, a little bit surprising that we’re having so much difficulty reaching an agreement … (but) it is not going to get fixed by us just caving in to Sunflower’s demands.”
Patrick Knorr, chief operating officer for The World Company, said that Hearst-Argyle was seeking fees that would be “significantly higher than any other deals we’ve made.”
His company would sign an agreement immediately if Hearst-Argyle were willing to substantiate its claim that its offer was in line with those for satellite and large cable operators, Knorr said.
“We recognize the value of the programming they offer,” Knorr said. “We urgently and absolutely want to get that back in front of our viewers, but this is about the cost to our consumers, and this is about the cost to our communities that we serve.
“Ultimately, whether or not we pass this cost on to consumers, this cost is coming out of our community. We’re a locally based company. They are demanding to extract money from us, from our customers, and at an exceptionally higher amount than (in) any other deal we have. And we think it’s wrong.”