Despite an ongoing impasse between Buckeye CableSystem and a network channel provider, the Winter Olympics will be broadcast on a handful of the Toledo-area cable provider’s stations.
Brad Mefferd, Buckeye CableSystem’s chief administrative officer, said the cable television company will carry the Olympics on five stations: CBC, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Sports Network, and the USA Network.
Buckeye will also offer coverage of the Olympics through online availability, streaming coverage, and a package on Buckeye’s On Demand channel that will include highlights, athlete profiles, and previous footage from the United States Olympic trials.
The Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 6 in Sochi, Russia, and while NBCUniversal is the primary provider for Olympic broadcasting, Buckeye is not carrying programming on WNWO Channel 24, NBC’s Toledo affiliate.
Buckeye and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. are more than two months into an impasse after Sinclair ordered Buckeye to stop retransmitting WNWO when its contract expired on Dec. 16. Under federal law, Buckeye cannot pick up WNWO’s broadcast signal and send it to its cable customers without the station’s permission.
“Whether WNWO is on our system or not, we would still have all these hours of coverage,” Mefferd said. “This isn’t something unique that we did. We’re highlighting for customers all the coverage that CBC will have. It’s going to be robust, and I think people will find it more attractive. CBC focuses more on the sport, while NBC focuses more on behind-the-scenes stories about the athletes.”
In addition to its televised offerings, Buckeye Cable will offer streaming online coverage in the Gold Zone, a live look-in feed akin to the NFL Network’s Red Zone, on NBCOlympics.com and on the NBC Sports Live Extra app. Access to streaming coverage requires a standard Buckeye subscription.
“[Streaming coverage] keeps growing more and more, especially for the Olympics,” Mefferd said. “For this Olympics in particular, I think it’s going to be really popular because of the time-zone difference. Most of the Olympics will be going on while we’re at work, and people may have something up on their computer screen or may be watching on their iPad.”
Last week, a Sinclair representative told The Blade that both sides are continuing negotiations for a new contract that would allow Buckeye to resume carrying WNWO’s programming.
“We stated from the beginning, it’s always our intent to reach a deal,” Mefferd said. “We want to carry WNWO in our system. We want to do it at a price that’s fair to customers and fair to the marketplace.”
Mefferd said Buckeye has received customer inquiries in which it has had to explain the absence of WNWO.
“It depends how the conversation goes,” Mefferd said. “We reinforce that we want to carry WNWO. The fact of the matter is, WNWO is asking for a price that far exceeds any other station in town, and the Cleveland and Detroit stations. Their ratings are much lower than other stations in town, we’re trying to get the best deal for our customers. We know NBC content is valued, but we value our pocketbook and the customers’ pocketbooks.”
But Buckeye has also received customer inquiries in regards to broadcasting the Olympics, one of the world’s marquee sporting events.
“That’s why we want to get the message out, that we’re going to have a tremendous amount of Olympic coverage,” Mefferd said. “People are curious.”
The Blade and Buckeye CableSystem are both owned by Block Communications Inc.