Facing a blackout on Nexstar Broadcasting Group stations in nine markets due to stalled retransmission licensing renewal talks, Cox Communications has spoken out against Nexstar's $4.6 billion bid to acquire Media General.
"Cox Communications strongly urges the public to voice its opposition of the merger to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)," said Cox in a statement. "Nexstar is demanding Cox Communications customers pay triple the current price for retransmission consent or Nexstar will remove their signal from the Cox Communications lineup on January 29. Nexstar won't even accept the very same rate that stations they manage agreed to just two weeks ago."
Nexstar has told Cox that stations in nine of the MSO's markets, which include CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS-TV, will go dark for the operator if a renewal isn't signed by Friday.
A "New Nexstar" would control 171 stations in more than 100 markets across the U.S., reaching 39 percent of U.S. TV homes — the top of the threshold allowed by the FCC.
It would be a formidable negotiating opponent for any pay-TV operator to face in a broadcast retransmission licensing negotiation.
"Nexstar should not be allowed to become a larger company, which would force more cable TV/satellite companies and ultimately customers to pay higher fees for retransmission consent," Cox added. "This merger is bad for business, bad for consumers and is not in the public interest."
Of course, Nexstar CEO Perry Sook is entirely aware of what his company's enhanced bargaining position might be, evidenced by this statement released Wednesday: "The transaction increases Nexstar's broadcast portfolio by approximately two-thirds with very limited overlap with our existing properties, more than doubles our audience reach, provides entrée to 15 new top-50 DMAs and offers synergies related to the increased scale of the combined digital media operations."
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