FSB parent blames Optimum over channel
Negotiations between WFSB’s corporate parent and the owner of the Optimum cable television franchise in Connecticut are entering a sixth week, but the two sides don’t appear to be any closer to a new retransmission agreement to return the station’s programming to subscribers in 24 Connecticut towns.
The bulk of Optimum customers are in Fairfield County and can see CBS programs via the network’s New York City affiliate, WCBS.
But Optimum subscribers in Milford, Orange and Woodbridge and eight Litchfield County communities don’t get both WCBS and WFSB because those communities are not considered part of the New York City television market, while Fairfield County is.
Instead, the two companies have engaged in what could best be described as a nasty public relations spat. WFSB is a CBS network affiliate owned by Iowa media giant Meredith Corp. and Optimum, which has its headquarters in Bethpage, New York, is owned by the Altice Group, of the Netherlands.
Klarn DePalma, senior vice president and general manager at WFSB, questioned Altice’s interest in its subscribers. He said the company has not responded to Meredith’s most recent offer in nearly a month.
“I don’t know what their commitment is to our state,” DePalma said Friday. “They have cut costs and moved employees out of state. They’ve relocated employees of News 12 Connecticut to New Jersey.”
DePalma’s comments refer to Altice’s decision in August 2016 to close a Shelton call center and a back-office operation in Stratford that served Optimum repair crews in Connecticut, which put 600 people out of work.
He also referred to Altice’s decision in October to move production work from Norwalk to Edison, New Jersey, and keep a limited number of reporters, news photographers and support staff in Connecticut.
“We’ve negotiated retransmission agreements all over the country,” DePalma said, referring to Meredith. “This is the only company we’ve had trouble with.”
Lisa Anselmo, an Altice spokeswoman, said DePalma’s claim that the company and Meredith officials haven’t spoken in nearly a month “is completely untrue.”
“We spoke as recently as this past week,” Anselmo said. “I think he needs to check with his bosses.”
She said News12 Connecticut maintains “boots on the ground” in the state to report stories, though Anselmo declined to say how many it employs here.
“We are very committed to our Connecticut customers,” she said.
As evidence of Optimum’s commitment to its state subscribers, she offered the following examples:
• News 12 Connecticut added to the Litchfield County channel line-up.
• Upgrades to Optimum broadband offerings.
• A free trial of CBS All Access, a subscription streaming video-on-demand service, owned by the television network.
James McClure, a Watertown resident, said WFSB is one of his favorite channels.
“I have no other way to receive (it),” McClure said in an email. “Reception via antenna is impossible here.”
Call Luther Turmelle at 203-680-9388.