Press Releases

Public news from NCTC and selected partners.

Small, Rural Cable TV Consumers at Risk from a Super-Sized Sinclair if Tribune Merger Approved

Lenexa, KS – The National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), which represents 800 of the smallest, most rural cable operators in the country, today expressed concerns about the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger, saying it believes Sinclair will use its size to impose disproportionally higher costs on smaller operators, leading to significant cost increases for consumers. NCTC believes recent negotiating tactics used by Sinclair provide a clear indication that the company will wield its dominant power to take advantage of much smaller companies. NCTC rarely comments on pending merger activity but the urgent situation with Sinclair has necessitated a public response.

NCTC President and CEO Rich Fickle issued the following statement on Sinclair’s recent actions and NCTC’s position on the proposed merger:

“Sinclair is using its Gorilla-like weight to intimidate small cable operators. The costs being charged for local television broadcasts, known as “retrans fees,” is the fastest rising content cost for most cable operators across the industry. Sinclair is trying to take its retrans negotiations several steps further, using high-pressure tactics designed to intimidate smaller companies into accepting much higher costs and more onerous terms than are reasonable in the industry. Our point of view is that Sinclair is acting with total confidence that its merger with Tribune will be approved. Sinclair seems unconcerned that the approach to smaller markets and the inevitable adverse impacts on consumers will be scrutinized. We are very concerned that if unchecked, Sinclair’s size will create notable economic harm to consumers in smaller markets.

Most of the NCTC member cable operators have fewer than 2,000 subscribers and operate in rural, older, lower-income markets. We worked hard as a group to reach a reasonable deal with Sinclair. We thought we were close, but Sinclair walked away and is now presumably following through on its threat to target small operators individually with even more egregious terms and tactics.”

While individual contract terms are confidential, NCTC suspects that Sinclair’s new proposed direct agreements contain significant rate increases, forced bundled distribution of low-viewed cable networks and language related to Sinclair’s proposed merger with Tribune that is worse than what was on the table when NCTC was negotiating as a group purchaser. If Sinclair prevails in these efforts, consumers will see their cable bills rise by hundreds of dollars over the next few years.

A combined Sinclair-Tribune entity would create an even more massive broadcasting group with unprecedented market power and concentration; a single entity owning 223 TV stations, serving 108 markets, including 39 of the top 50 DMAs, and covering more than 70 percent of U.S. households.

About National Cable Television Cooperation (NCTC)
National Cable Television Cooperation, located in Lenexa, Kansas, is a non-profit cooperative that represents over 800 independent cable and broadband operators, primarily midsize and small operators. Many of NCTC’s members operate in rural and smaller markets, and serve older, lower-income communities. NCTC primarily serves as a buying cooperative that negotiates content distribution agreements on behalf of its members while partnering with suppliers and content providers all to keep their goal of driving innovation into their industry. Since 1984, National Cable Television Cooperation (NCTC) has partnered with their members to bring generations of experience working with the people they serve in small and midsized communities while ensuring to always put customers first. For more information about National Cable Television Cooperation (NCTC), visit www.nctconline.org or call 913.599.5900.