Comcast drops KRON, KQED in parts of Northern California

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Comcast viewers in some parts of Northern California have expressed confusion and disappointment at the cable company’s decision to drop two popular channels from their lineup.

In late March, customers in the Fairfield-Vacaville region found they were no longer able to watch San Francisco MyNetwork station KRON-TV (Channel 4) and PBS station KQED (Channel 9). Despite technically falling within the boundary of the Sacramento broadcast market, both stations have been viewable on the cable system serving Vacaville and Fairfield since the 1980s.

When Comcast acquired the system in the early 2000s, they opted to continue carrying KRON-TV, KQED and a handful of other San Francisco-area channels. In some parts of Vacaville and Fairfield, these channels can be viewed with an antenna.

But in recent years, Comcast has begun removing so-called “out-of-market” stations from cable systems in Northern California. In late 2013, Comcast announced it would no longer carry FOX station KTVU (Channel 2) in some markets outside the San Francisco area. The channel, which was an independent broadcaster until the late 1980s, had been available on cable systems throughout the west coast and continued to be carried on an out-of-market basis in some areas after signing on with Fox.

When Comcast dropped the station on systems outside the Bay Area, it announced the decision was made after being contacted by the Fox Network. In Fairfield-Vacaville and other parts of the region, Comcast already carried Sacramento’s Fox affiliate KTXL (Channel 40). Comcast also dropped KTVU from systems in the Yuba City and Tracy markets. Comcast warned viewers through television notices that the station would be dropped at least a month ahead of time.

This time, customers appear to have been caught off guard at the decision to remove KRON and KQED. So, too, were the broadcasters.

A KRON spokesperson told The Desk by e-mail that their parent company, Nexstar Broadcasting, has a carriage agreement with Comcast that allows the cable provider to carry the channel both inside the San Francisco Bay Area and out-of-market. Despite this agreement, KRON said it began hearing from viewers last summer that Comcast was dropping the channel on systems outside of the Bay Area.

“This caught us by surprise, but we were subsequently informed that Comcast had made the decision to drop KRON’s out-of-market carriage,” the spokesperson said. KRON declined to provide details about their carriage agreement with Comcast because of a non-disclosure agreement between the companies.

A spokesperson for KQED said they, too, were caught by surprise and that the decision to eliminate their channel from some out-of-market systems was Comcast’s.

“They apparently decided they didn’t have room for both KVIE and KQED, so [they]elected to drop us,” the statement said. “We, too, are disappointed with Comcast’s decision.”

Joan Hammel, a Comcast executive focused on the California region, told The Desk by e-mail that the company sometimes modifies channel lineups after considering a number of factors, including programming and carriage costs.

“We understand that some customers find this programming valuable, and we will work with them to explore options that may help them continue to watch this programming or other content like it,” Hammel wrote.

Customers in the affected area still have access to network programming formerly provided by KRON and KQED. MyNetwork programming is available via Sacramento affiliate KQCA-TV (Channel 58, cable 8) and PBS programming can be seen on KVIE (Channel 6). Many of the PBS digital channels once available via KQED and sister channel KQEH (Channel 54) are rebroadcast from KVIE on various Comcast channels. Customers who want to watch KRON or KQED news programmings have been directed to stream the news online.

In the Fairfield-Vacaville region, some San Francisco-area channels still remain for customers, including CBS station KPIX-TV (Channel 5), ABC station KGO-TV (Channel 7) and independent station KICU (Channel 36, cable 17). Viewers can watch rebroadcasts of KTVU news programs on KICU throughout the day.

(This post was updated to include comments from KQED and a Comcast executive. Portions of the original article were re-written for clarity and length.)