By RANDY GONZALES
The two local cable television companies are needing to strike a deal with a channel provider to prevent several channels from likely going dark next week.
"It's going to come down to the wire," said Travis Kohlrus, general manager for Eagle Communications.
Eagle Communications and Nex-Tech are both negotiating a new contract with Viacom, which has more than a dozen channels in the lineup for each cable company. If a deal isn't struck by Monday, potentially those channels could go dark the next day.
"This isn't the first time we've come across this issue, negotiating these packages," said Mike Pollock, Nex-Tech chief operating officer for competitive services. "It's an industry issue, too.
"It seems like it's getting more prevalent. Programming rates of the networks, they're wanting more and more every time the contracts come up. The amounts they're asking for increases are way above the rates of inflation. Our job is to keep the rates reasonable for subscribers. That's why we're really trying to dig in here and see if we can get an equitable solution for everybody."
Nex-Tech could lose nine channels on its premiere package and eight more channels on its sports and entertainment tier.
Eagle Communications could lose 16 channels.
"We have not ever lost a channel that I could think of," said Kohlrus, who has been with Eagle for 11 years.
Channels the cable companies could lose if an agreement isn't reached include Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and a number of VH1 channels.
"Every year, there's a deal that comes up," Kohlrus said. "Every year, it's getting to be more often, and more down to the wire. The last three years, it's kind of headed in that direction."
Eagle Communications has a website -- www.TVOnMyside.com -- where subscribers can receive more information. Pollock said Nex-Tech planned to post information on its website today, as well as run a message on channels to keep subscribers updated.
"We're still hopeful it doesn't get to the point where it blacks out," Pollock said. "But the way things are looking, it probably will."
Kohlrus said negotiations will continue this week as the deadline nears.
"You're trying to protect your customer, trying to protect the consumer from an exorbitant increase on programming fees," Kohlrus said. "If you lose a channel, that's less programming that you have.
"But if you just give in to everything, then it gets to be a lot more expensive -- too expensive."
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Channels that could be lost by Eagle Communications
CMT Pure Country
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Channels that might be lost by Nex-Tech
Sports & Entertainment tier
CMT Pure Country