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TMCNet:  Charter to drop channel carrying UMD hockey

[February 24, 2012]

Charter to drop channel carrying UMD hockey

Feb 24, 2012 (Duluth News Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Charter Cable subscribers in Duluth and Superior could lose access to two TV networks that carry popular programming such as Minnesota Duluth men's hockey games and "Gossip Girl." Northland's CW 2 and My9/My9 Sports Network -- which broadcasts local college and high school sports -- are scheduled to be cut from Charter Cable's lineup March 12, according to a statement from the cable service provider. Those who do not subscribe to Charter Cable will not notice any changes.

Charter Cable is citing the rising cost of programming, specifically from broadcast TV stations, for the change.

"Recently, the ownership of KDLH-CW and KBJR-MyNetworkTV in Duluth have demanded fees we consider to be unreasonable and would add up to a significant monthly increase in the price our customers pay for their cable TV service," a spokesperson for Charter Cable said in an e-mail. "Therefore, we have made the decision to discontinue carriage of these TV stations in our Duluth area channel line-up on March 12." David Jensch, vice president and station manager for Northland's NewsCenter, said the costs associated are minimal -- a penny per day per subscriber. Like many other broadcast television stations, Jensch said, Northland's NewsCenter wants compensation because the cable provider is making money from subscribers to air their stations.

"They just drew a line in the sand that said 'No,' " Jensch said. "We pay money for this programming. I spend a lot of money to produce UMD hockey and UMD football. This programming isn't free. We feel it is not unfair for us to charge a little bit of money." Stations such as KBJR pay a fee to NBC to be an affiliate and broadcast its programming, with slots for local commercials and news. A station such as My9 has fewer restrictions and more room for local programming, such as college sports or the mayor's state-of-the-city address. Cable providers bundle stations together, then sell subscriptions to the services based on the channels included in the agreement.

"It's clear that Charter is trying to make some big national point and use us as an example," Jensch said.

Jensch said the station has not charged cable providers for this content before, and Charter Cable said it would drop the networks even before the charge would take effect.

Charter Cable posted its view of the situation on the company's web site, claiming that some broadcast stations are asking for a 400 percent increase in retransmission fees.

"On a regular basis, Charter negotiates new agreements with TV stations and cable networks for the right to provide their channels to our customers," Charter Cable says on its web site. "Most of the time you never hear about our negotiations with them. But sometimes, a station or network demands too much and we have to take a firm stand to protect our customers and our business." The change won't affect UMD games scheduled to air for the rest of this season.

In 2010, UMD signed a two-year agreement with Northland's NewsCenter to air 14 men's hockey games and four women's games on the My9 Sports Network. The contract expires at the end of this season.

"It's not a concern for the immediate future," UMD Sports Information Director Bob Nygaard said. "But definitely down the road we're concerned about access and reach and people's ability to watch our product." UMD sports are streamed on the athletic department's web site, umdbulldogs.com. Men's and women's hockey games are subject to pay-per-view charge of $8 a game.

The spat between Charter and two stations will not affect viewers who receive their TV signal from an antenna or who may receive the channels on satellite TV.

Programs that air on the CW include "The Vampire Diaries," "90210," "America's Next Top Model," "Hart of Dixie" and "Ringer." In addition to college hockey and football, My9 airs high school sports and Mayor Don Ness' state-of-the-city address -- which also aired on Public Access Community Television. The CW streams full episodes of much of its programming online.

___ (c)2012 the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.) Visit the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.) at www.duluthnewstribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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