Hawaiian Telcom has filed a complaint against Nexstar Media Inc. in which it claims that the company has blacked out a cable channel and five broadcast channels during active negotiations over an extension of their retransmission agreement.

Pay-TV providers such as cable companies are required to retransmit local stations’ content. They also must negotiate transmission fees with the owners of those stations. The pay-TV providers argue that content providers have the upper hand in negotiations.

Nexstar is the largest broadcaster in the United States, according to a Hawaiian Telcom press release. The service provider says that Nexstar has asked for a 70% increase over the expiring agreement, which ended on the last day of June. Hawaiian Telcom said Nexstar took the channels off the air despite “active negotiations.”

The channels that currently are unavailable include KHON2 (FOX), KHII (MyNetwork), CW, GRIT, Rewind TV and NewsNation.

The Hawaiian Telcom Nexstar Dispute

“Nexstar is using its market power to unjustifiably raise prices far beyond what is reasonable,” Filifotu Vaai, the Vice President of Consumer Products and Sales at Hawaiian Telcom said in today’s press release. “Individuals and families in Hawai‘i cannot absorb these kinds of cost increases and we will continue to fight for fair and reasonable prices on behalf of our customers.”

According to Hawaiian Telcom, more than 150 Nexstar-owned TV stations went dark on DirecTV’s platform this month, affecting more than 10 million TV subscribers across the country.

In an email to Telecompetitor asking for Nexstar’s response to Hawaiian Telcom’s press release, Gary Weitman, EVP and chief communications officer for Nexstar Media Group sent a prepared statement.

“We believe this complaint is completely without merit and we will continue to work with Hawaiian Telcom to restore our services in short order,” the email said.

In September 2020, the FCC proposed fines of more than a half million dollars for 18 television station licensees about which AT&T lodged a complaint. The action was said to possibly have clarified what is meant by “good faith negotiations” in the content of retransmission consent.

Earlier that year – in March – The FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeking input on the topic on a number of issues, including the statute of limitations in carriage disputes and review of decisions by FCC administrative law judges.

In January, 2021, ACA Connects: America’s Communications Association said that retransmission fees had increased 19.2% between 2018 and 2019. Total fees for the later year were more than $5.5 billion, the group said.

ACA Connects President and CEO Grant Spellmeyer told Telecompetitor recently that 2023 will be a big year for retransmission consent negotiations, which means we may expect to see more blackouts in the coming months.

Updated with a comment from Grant Spellmeyer

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