WNWO/Sinclair hold town hall to discuss negotiation with Buckeye Cable

People gather in ballroom of the Park Inn Hotel in Toledo to hear from Sinclair executive on current negotiations with Buckeye Cable.

Monday marked 50 days since WNWO was taken off Buckeye Cable. Thatâ??s because an impasse continues between Buckeye Cable and WNWOâ??s owners, Sinclair Broadcast Group, over how much money the cable provider must pay Sinclair in order to air Toledoâ??s NBC affiliate on their lineup.

Many viewers are frustrated with the dispute, and have been demanding Buckeye Cable and Sinclair to come to an agreement to get the channel back on the air. In order to address concerns and provide more insight into the retransmission process, Sinclair Broadcast held a town hall at the Park Inn Hotel in downtown Toledo Monday night. Buckeye Cable was invited to bring their own representatives to the town hall, but they did not respond or show up to the event.

There were a wide range of opinions from people at the meeting. Alan Grenberg says heâ??s a happy Buckeye Cable subscriber, and believes they should hold firm with Sinclair in order to keep prices down.

Chris Elliott attended the meeting out of curiosity. He said heâ??s neutral in the disagreement, and just wanted to get more information on the negotiations.

Meanwhile, Julia Torres Barden believes Buckeye Cable is out of bounds, and is conducting business in a way that is not considered standard in the cable television industry. Barden was a former spokesperson for the large cable company Comcast.

These three all spoke out at the town hall, which was conducted by Sinclair Executive Vice President Barry Faber, who has been in charge of negotiations with Buckeye.

READ: Sinclair-Buckeye FAQ

Faber explained to the audience that the prior agreement WNWO had with Buckeye was extremely undervalued. That deal was negotiated under the stationâ??s prior owner, Barrington Broadcasting, which was sold to Sinclair in November 2013. The prior agreement had Buckeye Cable paying 24 cents per subscriber to air WNWO. While Faber wouldnâ??t give specific details due to the ongoing negotiations, he did say he valued the station at closer to $2 per subscriber. He told the audience that the price theyâ??ve proposed to Buckeye Cable is fair, especially compared to what subscribers pay for other channels of which many they do not watch or donâ??t want, but must pay for anyway.

Faber also noted that not all of the money from the retransmission fees goes to WNWO or Sinclair, as a percentage of that is given to NBC. With more options available on TV and online, the major broadcast networks like NBC are demanding a larger percentage of the retransmission fees in order to stay competitive and produce their unique television shows and purchase rights to sporting events.

Faber ended by saying that WNWO was the only station out of more than 160 that Sinclair currently owns that is off the air due to a dispute with a cable or satellite company. He believes that counters the argument that Sinclair is greedy, since they have deals in place for all of their other stations with many different providers across the country.

Most at Monday nightâ??s town hall were appreciative for the update on negotiations and the ability to ask questions, though many, like Grenberg, were not convinced by Faberâ??s answers. Elliott believes the two companies are locked in a stalemate, and doesnâ??t believe theyâ??re actually negotiating much at the moment. Faber did warn the audience that there was no guarantee that WNWO will come to an agreement with Buckeye Cable.

Yet, for those hoping for progress, Buckeye Cable and Sinclair are scheduled to meet with each other Tuesday. While Faber has tempered expectations, heâ??s hoping a deal can finally get done.