Cox and Hearst retransmission impasse moves to blackout stage

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Hearst says Cox refused its offer to extend the bargaining period and walked away from the bargaining table.

Hearst Television stations are no longer available to Cox Communications TV subscribers, with the two sides unable to reach agreement on a new retrans deal.

According to spin let loose on Hearst station websites, the broadcaster offered Cox three extra days to carve out a deal beyond a five-day extension leading into a Sept. 5 deadline. Hearst said Cox walked away from the bargaining table and eschewed the extension to Sept. 8.

For its part, Cox accused Hearst of making the first move, while also noting the broadcaster's earlier pay-TV blackouts this year. Hearst had earlier run-ins with Dish Network, as well as AT&T's DirecTV and U-verse platforms. 

"Hearst pulled its signal from the Cox lineup because we would not agree to pay double the price we currently pay," Cox said in a statement. "This is the third time this year Hearst has pulled its programming from a cable or satellite provider. Hearst is demanding more money than Cox pays any other station. We asked Hearst to extend our current agreement for two weeks to finish negotiations. Hearst said no. We continue to negotiate and hope to come to an agreement as soon as possible. In the meantime, viewers should visit www.coxcommitment.com to learn other ways to watch." 

For its part, Hearst is leveraging the specter of more hurricane disruption in its messaging. 

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“We are disappointed that Cox has refused our customary offer to extend our agreement, especially during this period of severe weather,” the broadcaster said. “As a local broadcaster, we are keenly aware of the importance of serving our local viewers during times like these. Our stations work diligently every day to provide access to important news and weather, as well as vital emergency information. Our commitment to the local communities we serve will continue regardless of this impasse.”

Hearst operates nearly 70 network affiliates in 39 states. Privately held Cox serves more than 4.2 million pay-TV customers, according to analysts’ estimates. It’s unclear as to how many Hearst stations are in the Cox footprint and are impacted by the blackout. 

As is now customary in broadcast retransmission negotiation impasses, Cox is pushing over-the-air antennas, directing affected viewers to the NAB-backed www.tvfreedom.org website to get them. The broadcaster is also directing viewers to call Cox directly and voice complaints.

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