Las Vegas Sun

June 28, 2016

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Las Vegas CBS station KLAS goes dark amid rate dispute with Cox

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A screen grab shows a message to Cox cable subscribers that CBS affiliate television station KLAS Channel 8 has pulled its programming, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016.

Updated Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 | 3:23 p.m.

Cox Communications viewers flipping to Channel 8 this afternoon are finding that it's still unavailable.

Cox and Nexstar Broadcasting Group — owner of CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS-TV — didn't reach a contract agreement, and screens went blank at 12:01 a.m. today, showing only this message: "This station is demanding a significant fee increase for this channel and has pulled it from Cox viewers."

After more than five months, talks between Cox and Nexstar are apparently at a standstill. Caught in the middle are the cable provider’s 353,000 Las Vegas customers.

Cox spokesman Juergen Barbusca said Friday that an offer to increase the rate paid by the cable company to carry KLAS programming was “on the table.”

“We’ve offered Nexstar an increase, and they’re essentially looking at us and saying, ‘That’s not what we want,’” Barbusca said.

He said this morning that Nexstar has not “changed their offer” in the past two weeks. KLAS contests Cox’s claims and says it’s continuing negotiations to “seek a fair rate and hope that this interruption is temporary.”

In a statement on its website, KLAS made a plea to viewers: “We sincerely apologize for our failure and regret that you — our loyal viewers — have been impacted.”

KLAS suggests Cox viewers watch the station's free broadcast non-cable signal. It also provides contact information for other cable and satellite providers in the valley.

A news release from Cox Communications says Nexstar wants three times what Cox is paying now to carry KLAS programming. KLAS General Manager and Vice President Lisa Howfield denied Cox’s claim, calling it “unequivocally untrue.”

“They’re making mischaracterizations about our company, and that’s a problem,” said Howfield, who declined to discuss details of the negotiations.

Despite the standoff, Howfield and Barbusca both said they were confident the sides will reach an agreement by Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7.

“Lots can happen from now until then,” Barbusca said. “Nobody wants to see a station go dark.”

Howfield said an extended blackout “would be really extreme. Most of the time, if they go into blackout, they get resolved in a number of days.”

Opinion from viewers is divided on Twitter, where they have attacked or defended @8newsnow and @coxcomm. Some have threatened to move to a different provider, while others have accused both entities of greed.

Sun staff writer Ricardo Torres contributed to this report.

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