Sinclair plays down talks with Mediacom

BUSINESS DIGEST

November 30, 2006|By Bloomberg News

Hunt-Valley based Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said yesterday that talks with cable operator Mediacom Communications Corp. were unlikely to end in an agreement and that Mediacom would probably stop carrying some Sinclair television stations as of tomorrow.

The two companies were unable to agree on price, Sinclair Chief Executive Officer David Smith said in a statement. Sinclair said it is offering Mediacom subscribers rebates to switch their service to satellite TV provider DirecTV Group Inc.

Markets affected include those in Des Moines, Ames and Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Peoria, Ill./Bloomington, Ind.; Lexington, Ky.; Madison, Wis.; Nashville, Tenn.; Minneapolis; Springfield/Champaign/Decatur, Ill.; St. Louis; Tallahassee, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; Norfolk, Va.; and Milwaukee.

"They have targeted our company to send a signal to the rest of the industry," Mediacom Chief Executive Officer Rocco Commisso said. He accused Sinclair of "bullying tactics."

Commisso said Middletown, N.Y.-based Mediacom has asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for an injunction to allow the cable company to keep carrying the stations while talks with Sinclair continue.

Mediacom said almost half of its customers could lose network-affiliated local stations.

Mediacom raised its offer last week by 33 percent, and Sinclair rejected it, Commisso said.

Barry Faber, Sinclair's general counsel, wasn't immediately available for comment.

Mediacom charged in a lawsuit filed in October that Sinclair was revoking rights to its major-network stations unless Mediacom agreed to carry stations affiliated with the new networks MyNetworkTV and the CW.

Mediacom said at the time there was "little demand" from subscribers for the new networks.

Mediacom said almost 700,000 of its customers could be affected by the cutoff in service. As of Sept. 30, it had 1.39 million subscribers.

Sinclair owns, operates or provides services to 58 TV stations in 36 markets.

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