COLUMBIA, 1/7/11 (Beat Byte) -- Is Mediacom trying to rub margarita salt into KOMU television's post-negotiation wounds?
The controversial cable provider is hosting an NBC 'Wildcard Watch' party at Harpo’s Bar in downtown Columbia Saturday, a move that had KSSZ The Eagle radio talk show host Tom Bradley fuming on his radio show this morning.
"In order to provide an outlet for its subscribers to watch the two remaining NFL games televised on NBC," Mediacom is hosting "subscribers who lost access to NBC programming early Tuesday morning, after negotiations with KOMU fell through," a Mediacom press release reported.
Big Football has played into Mediacom negotiations before, most notably in a dispute with Sinclair Broadcasting resolved shortly before a recent Super Bowl.
Bradley (above, KSSZ photo) had earlier hosted both parties to the failed negotiations, which saw Mediacom yank NBC affiliate KOMU from its subscriber airwaves, ostensibly over a rate dispute. Bradley sounded as though he almost felt betrayed, after giving his undivided time and listener attentions to Mediacom communications director Phyllis Peters Wednesday.
"I just can't understand why Mediacom is doing this," Bradley said today, openly wondering how Harpo's would get the NBC signal. "I know they won't be using rabbit ears," he added, which leaves Mediacom's satellite competitors as the only viable option. But using the competition to get what you just said "no" to?
"I can't understand how that's supposed to work!" Bradley exclaimed.
The watch party "is one of the tangible ways we can say 'thank you' to our customers for the loyalty they have shown Mediacom over the years," said Larry Peterson, Mediacom’s regional vice president for Missouri, in a news release.
But Bradley was left scratching his head over what he seemed to consider a bizarre public relations stunt.
Told you so?
Mediacom has been the object of both Columbia City Council and local customer ire many times over the past few years, most recently over a series of outages and other problems that prompted then 4th Ward City Councilman Jerry Wade to publicly criticize the cable provider. Those issues left Bryan Gann, Mediacom's area operations director, unapologetic. Gann wrote a letter to the Columbia Business Times blasting the criticisms.
The latest controversy -- over how much Mediacom should pay KOMU to broadcast its NBC signal -- has been frought with public relations gaffes.
In shades of Ed Robb vs. Jim Ritter for Missouri statehouse, in which Robb slammed Ritter for driving around in a "taxpayer-funded SUV" during his tenure as Columbia Public School superintendent, Mediacom has repeatedly chided KOMU for its "taxpayer-funded" status as an arm of the University of Missouri Journalism School.
But that argument plays both ways. Paying KOMU more should reduce taxpayer outlay, most of which goes for educational purposes. KOMU is one of few -- if not the only -- television stations in the U.S. dedicated to student education.
"Free food will be available at the start of both games and during halftime," Mediacom noted in its student-friendly watch party invitation.