Why these local cable customers could lose two channels on Saturday

WBTW - jbell@thesunnews.com

Local cable customers could lose popular shows like Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds and 60 Minutes if cable provider HTC doesn't reach a deal with WBTW owner Nexstar Media Group by Saturday.

HTC officials say that Nexstar is asking cable, phone and internet provider HTC to pay double the existing fee rate for the rights to broadcast local channels WTBW and MyNetworkTV during an ongoing fee rate negotiation. WBTW is the local CBS affiliate for the Myrtle Beach area.

Cable companies pay the monthly fees, called retransmission fees, to station owners for the right to broadcast certain channels. It's a monthly fee calculated by taking the fee amount and multiplying it by the number of cable customers a company has, HTC Marketing Supervisor Sandy Hendrick said.

If the two don't reach and agreement by the Saturday deadline, Hendrick said HTC customers could lose WBTW and MyNetworkTV.

"Our whole goal in this process is to get a deal with Nexstar to keep BTW," Hendrick said. "In the past, our deals used to be done in a local level and now we’re negotiating with a corporate office."

Nexstar spokesperson Jennifer Neuman had said in an email, "As a company policy, we typically do not provide public comment related to private business matters, including ongoing good faith contract negotiations."

WBTW General Manager Jeff West said he had no comment on the matter.

The cable company made deals with the corporate owners of stations WMBF and and WPDE in December, Hendrick said, adding that those companies started the negotiations by asking for around a 70 percent increase, and that HTC did not agree to that.

"Typically you might see rate increases in the 5 to 10 percent range," Hendrick said, noting that he couldn't say the exact dollar amount of the fee. "We understand the value of content and the creation of content is getting more expensive to make, but going from what we’re paying now to a 100 percent increase, that’s just unjustifiable. Our goal is not to get rid of WBTW. It’s not fair to the consumer to be in the middle, but we want to educate and inform our consumers to what’s going on."

If the rates do go up, Hendrick said it could result in bigger cable bills for customers down the road.

"We try to do a yearly budget and we knew this negotiation would be coming up," he said. "When the deal's done, there’s no immediate plan to say the rates will increase. It will have an effect in the long term."

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