Hearst-Argyle pulls HD stations from Cox Cable systems

As a result of unsuccessful retransmission negotiations, Hearst-Argyle Television has removed the HD signals of six of its stations from cable systems owned by Cox Communications.

Hearst-Argyle is allowing Cox to continue to carry the primary analog signals for KOCO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City; WDSU, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans; KETV, the ABC affiliate in Omaha, NE; KMBC, the ABC affiliate in Kansas City, MO; KHBS/KHOB, the ABC affiliates in Fort Smith-Fayetteville, AR; WESH, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, FL; and WKCF, the CW affiliate in Orlando.

The incident mirrors other retransmission disputes across the country between digital broadcasters and cable operators. Broadcasters are trying, through retransmission fees, to recoup costs of upgrading to HDTV. Cable operators, also facing upgrade costs, have resisted paying fees to broadcasters.

Hearst-Argyle released a statement saying it seeks “fair and reasonable terms from Cox in return for allowing Cox to carry [the stations’] programming and charge its subscribers for access to that programming.” The broadcaster said Cox had been charging consumers for access to the station’s digital signal.

Cox Communications described the fee demands of Hearst-Argyle as “exorbitant.”

“Hearst Argyle received broadcast spectrum free from the government; it’s unfair that cable customers should have to pay for the signal they deliver on that spectrum,” Cox said in a statement.