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WGRZ viewers get another reprieve in station owner's dispute with Spectrum

Here we go again.

This time, WGRZ-TV is the local network affiliate warning viewers that the channel may soon be off Spectrum cable.

On Thursday night, the station's owner, Tegna, and Spectrum postponed the potential cutoff of 7 p.m. Thursday another 24 hours. The new deadline is 7 p.m. Friday.

The station told viewers over the weekend that it could have been off cable by Monday – before an extension to continue negotiations was granted.

The dispute is over what Spectrum will pay Tegna to carry the channel.

Once again, it is a national issue, not a local one.

It follows recent disputes that owners of WIVB-TV, WNLO-TV, WUTV and WNYO have had with AT&T’s DirecTV.

WIVB and WNLO, owned by Nexstar, were off DirecTV from July 4 until Aug. 29, when a national retransmission agreement was reached.

WUTV and WNYO, the local Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, ran crawls last week suggesting they were in jeopardy of going off DirecTV at 4 p.m. Sept. 27, but extensions have kept them on the air as negotiations continue.

In WGRZ's case, Tegna and Spectrum also could agree to another extension.

As with the Nexstar and Sinclair issues, the Tegna stations affected are affiliates of all the broadcasting networks. According to published reports, 45 Tegna stations across the country in 37 markets could go dark on Spectrum if a deal isn’t struck.

However, the Nexstar issue resulted in some Western New Yorkers getting antennas to receive the stations that were blacked out during its battle with AT&T and those antennas will also get them WGRZ-TV, if they switch from DirecTV to cable.

The Nexstar-AT&T dispute also forced local viewers to understand alternative ways to get CBS and CW programming, which included streaming. Similar alternatives should work to get most NBC programming.

The most popular NBC programs include “Sunday Night Football,” "This Is Us," “The Voice” and the three "Chicago" programs – “Fire, “Med” and “P.D.”

WGRZ’s newscasts also would be lost to cable subscribers, though the station does live-stream them.

It is anyone’s guess how long a potential loss of WGRZ on cable would last. However, the recently completed Nexstar-AT&T deal is presumably a good outline for a deal.

DirecTV subscribers who moved to Spectrum undoubtedly have learned there is a risk to changing services, because eventually the one you change to could be the next to be in a retransmission dispute.

There is no question who viewers should root for, with more evidence arriving Wednesday when Spectrum announced it is raising its internet and cable rates.

The Spectrum announcement included a $1.51 per month increase in its broadcast TV surcharge to $13.50 a month to receive stations that are free over-the-air to people in most areas of Western New York with decent antennas.

It stands to reason if Spectrum pays more to carry local channels such as WGRZ, the cost eventually will be passed down to the consumer.


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