GCI and KTUU Channel 2 came to a temporary agreement Tuesday to keep the NBC-affiliate carriage in Bethel and eight other areas outside of Anchorage, at least for the next few weeks. It’s a temporary solution to an on-going contractual dispute between GCI and Schurz Communications, the Indiana-based parent company of KTUU. The conflict surfaced when an old agreement expired at the end of September.
The rest of the agreement would end in December of 2014. If the two companies can’t reach a deal by then Rural Alaska would get hit first.
Brad Hillwig is the Marketing Director for KTUU.
“Cable subscribers in virtually all rural areas outside of Anchorage could turn on their TVs and not have access to KTUU-TV programming on GCI cable,” Hillwig says.
With Tuesday’s temporary agreement, that hasn’t happened yet. The details of that agreement are unclear and what each party wants long term is also being worked out.
David Morris, GCI’s Vice President, says KTUU has other options for carrying their service.
“They don’t have to use GCI to get out to rural Alaska,” Morris says. “There are a number of other providers that they could use. They are simply using GCI right now.”
Morris says KTUU wants the same free coverage on GCI’s cables and satellites as they’ve had in the past as well as guaranteed ad revenue from GCI.
“And on top of that, they are asking for about $2.5 million in cash for the right to carry their signal,” Morris says.
Right now, KTUU gets no payment from GCI.
KTUU’s Hillwig says the $2.5 million figure is premature and is unsubstantiated. He says GCI is putting customers in the middle of the negotiations.
“What should be happening right now is free carriage of KTUU continuing on GCI and these rural areas so that good faith negotiations for that 2015 and beyond time period can really begin in earnest,” Hillwig says.
Even if no long-term agreement is reached, some cable and non-cable viewers would still be able to access Channel 2 coverage using ARCS, the Alaska Rural Communication Service. On a regular day, ARCS carries between 5 and 16 hours of Channel 2 programming.
The temporary arrangement will keep KTUU carriage in Bethel as well as Barrow, Cordova, Kodiak, Kotzebue, Kuparuk, Nome, North Slope, and Valdez until November 8.