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Nexstar Sues Comcast Over WPIX Retransmission Fees

Nexstar
(Image credit: Nexstar)

NEW YORK—The increasingly bitter retransmission dispute between Nexstar and Comcast over WPIX in New York City, has prompted Nexstar to file a lawsuit asking the court to find “Comcast liable for breach of contract” and award Nexstar damages. 

“Nexstar was forced to bring this action because Comcast has flouted the terms of the parties’ retransmission consent agreement and refused to pay millions of dollars in fees owed to Nexstar,” the lawsuit stated. It was filed the Supreme Court Of The State Of New York, County Of New York.

The lawsuit comes after Comcast recently asked the FCC to rule that Nexstar was violating ownership caps because its agreement to divest WPIX was “a sham.”

In the lawsuit, Nexstar noted that Comcast and Nexstar had carefully negotiated a retransmission consent agreement in January of 2020 with provisions stating that "in certain specific circumstances, retransmission of the programming of a station not owned by Nexstar would also be governed by the parties’ agreement.” 

“In negotiating the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement, Comcast contemplated that Nexstar might contract with independently owned, third-party stations to provide local programming and other `local marketing’ services,'” the suit explained. "Accordingly, the parties carefully negotiated a provision in the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement, which provided that if Nexstar contracted to provide local marketing services to a third-party station during the term of the contract and had authority to negotiate retransmission consent on behalf of that station, then the third party station would become governed by the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement as an `Additional Station.’” 

The suit also noted that the two “parties specifically contemplated that WPIX (CW – New York) (`WPIX’), a New York City television station, might become an Additional Station pursuant to the Additional Stations provision. The parties therefore also negotiated the fees that would be paid for WPIX if the station were added to the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement.”

About a year later, the suit explained that WPIX was sold to Mission Broadcasting and Nexstar entered into a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Mission to provide programming and other support services to WPIX. 

“The transaction was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) without any objections from Comcast or other cable companies,” the suit continued. This meant that Comcast’s “retransmission of WPIX became governed by the terms of the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement, including the specific fees that the parties had negotiated,” the suit explained. 

“Rather than live up to its end of the bargain, however, Comcast decided to repudiate the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement,” the suit noted. “Comcast stated that it would not comply with its obligations under the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement, and confirmed that it had not been (and would not be) paying the fees required under that agreement for WPIX.”

“Even more shocking, when Nexstar reached out to Comcast to request that it pay the contractual fees, Comcast refused to negotiate and instead blindsided Nexstar by filing a post-hoc petition with the FCC, demanding that the agency reverse its prior approval of the WPIX LMA in order to nullify Comcast’s contractual promises,” the lawsuit noted.

The lawsuit asks for a ruling “declaring that the Comcast-Nexstar Agreement’s terms govern Comcast’s retransmission of WPIX, finding Comcast liable for breach of contract, and awarding Nexstar its damages, plus applicable interest” and that the court award “Nexstar its losses, liabilities, costs, and expenses incurred in this action, including but not limited to any attorneys’ fees, court costs, and expert fees.”