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Deadline approaches for KLAS-Cox deal |

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Deadline approaches for KLAS-Cox deal

More than 300,000 households in southern Nevada that currently watch KLAS-TV Channel 8 will have to make other arrangements after Friday at midnight. That's when the KLAS signal will no longer be transmitted to all subscribers of Cox Cable.

Despite five months of negotiations with Cox Communications, no deal has been reached regarding what Cox should pay for re-transmitting Channel 8's programs, including next week's Super Bowl broadcast.

The cable company has gone on the offensive with statements about KLAS that KLAS General Manager Lisa Howfield calls "untrue and frankly offensive."

Howfield, who serves as general manager of Nevada's first and most honored television station, has heard just about enough trash talk from Cox Cable.

She says she would be remiss if she does not advise Channel 8 viewers who subscribe to Cox that they will lose the KLAS signal as of midnight Friday.

Cox customers will no longer see the most watched station in Nevada, with its popular daytime dramas, highest-rated newscasts, syndicated shows like "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune", and the powerful CBS primetime lineup. KLAS, by far the most popular network, will be gone for Cox customers.

Howfield advises viewers to make other arrangements, especially football fans who want to watch Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, February 6.

"They won't be able to watch the Super Bowl on Cox," she said. "You will be able to watch the Super Bowl on DirecTV, Dish (Network), CenturyLink and, if all else fails, you can get a (high-definition) antenna and watch it over the air."

Other local providers are already doing brisk business as Cox customers are looking for better deals elsewhere.

Cox had trouble even before the current dispute. The company once had a near monopoly in Las Vegas, but the percentage of local homes which subscribe to Cox is dropping. It was down to 48 percent of the market in November 2015 and has since plunged to only 41 percent.

The dispute with KLAS has opened a lot of simmering complaints from dissatisfied customers.

"A lot of locals are starting to drop their subscribership to Cox for various reasons. I've spoken to a lot of people recently, so I've got quite an arsenal of feedback why they are making a switch," Howfield said.

The issue is a simple one: What is a fair rate for Cox to pay to retransmit KLAS programming?

Channel 8 is, by far, the most popular station, sign-on to sign-off, which means it is the biggest draw on the Cox system - more than ESPN, TNT or any other stations which are paid large sums by Cox.

Cox customers pay $8 per month for ESPN, whether they watch it or not. Howfield says Cox made a terrible business decision to pay that much.
Local broadcasters like Channel 8 provide 35 percent of the viewership for cable systems, but get only 12 percent of the revenue. Cox earns many times more from Channel 8's original content than does Channel 8.

A public relations statement sent to Cox customers is blatantly false and misleading, Howfield says. The claim that KLAS is demanding three times what it gets from the current agreement is flatly untrue, she says.

Callers to Cox have been told their cable bills will jump $20 or $30 if KLAS wins, which is not only false, but ridiculous.

Howfield is prohibited by law from making public what the retransmission rates would be, but says the typical fair amount negotiated by stations all across the country is around $1 per subscriber. Cox is paying many times that amount for ESPN, but only a fraction as much for KLAS.

Most telling of all is one fact that Cox can't spin: the proposed re-transmission rate has already been deemed fair and reasonable by every other provider system in Las Vegas, except Cox.

"Every other carrier in this market has recognized the value of a local broadcast and agreed to the terms which are very fair. DirecTV, Dish, Century, they all agree. It's Cox who does not," Howfield said.

Cox has shown it understands the value of KLAS programming. Prior to this dispute, the cable company was one of the top advertisers on KLAS. It pulled $400,000 in ads from Channel 8 after it walked out of the negotiations, including $100,000 to be spent on Super Bowl Sunday, a program that now will not be carried on Cox at all.

In the past decade, the parent company for Channel 8, Nexstar Broadcasting Group, has successfully reached agreements with cable providers across the country. Contrary to what Cox has implied, Nexstar has not forced a cutoff of service during that time.

The company has issued a detailed response to statements made by Cox.

KLAS hopes to see those who are currently Cox customers on some other provider.