Channel 2 News will soon be back on the air in Southeast Alaska, and rural cable subscribers across the state who have been without NBC will see that programming return, after an agreement announced on Thursday (2-6-14) between cable provider GCI and the Anchorage NBC affiliate KTUU.
“We are very excited to be back in Southeast and to have Channel 2 News down there,” said Andy MacLeod, President and General Manager of KTUU.
GCI and KTUU had been wrangling over the terms of a new contract ever since last fall, when GCI bought two TV stations in Southeast: KATH in Juneau and KSCT in Sitka.
In November, the dispute led GCI to drop the KTUU signal in several parts of rural Alaska, leaving about 7,000 households from Barrow to Valdez without access to NBC programming, except what was carried on the state-operated channel known as ARCS.
And in December, GCI removed KTUU’s flagship news program, Channel 2 News, from its stations in Sitka and Juneau. That affected about 14,000 households across Southeast Alaska — both cable and satellite subscribers. GCI temporarily replaced the Channel 2 newscasts with a program called One America News.
But as of 1pm Thursday (2-6-14), most of rural Alaska got their KTUU signal back. Southeast viewers should see Channel 2 News back on the airwaves within a few days, GCI said.
The two companies had agreed on rates as far back as December; but the dispute centered on what would happen if KTUU ever acquired another station.
KTUU president MacLeod said the station is satisfied on that front.
“We got a provision that allows us to build our business into the future, unrestrained,” MacLeod said. “So, that’s a significant thing.”
MacLeod added that the agreement comes at a good time for Southeast viewers who are fans of the winter Olympics, which is carried on TV exclusively by NBC. Channel 2 News has two reporters in Sochi, Russia, following Alaska’s Olympic athletes.
But GCI spokesman David Morris said that negotiations between cable providers like GCI and content providers like KTUU are becoming a national issue.
“Will this happen again in Alaska?” Morris said. “We sure hope not, we’re trying to figure ways out to make it not happen. But the way it’s set up right now, if you don’t have a company, whoever your provider is, who says no to some of these demands, then things will spiral completely out of control.”
The new agreement covers about three years, so Alaskans shouldn’t see any more disruption to NBC programming through at least 2017.