Comcast says it will finally drop KCRA from some systems

The logo of Sacramento television station KCRA. (Logo: Hearst/Graphic: The Desk)

For the second time in less than a year, Comcast is warning some customers that they will lose KCRA and a few other Hearst Television-owned stations that are currently available to subscribers outside of their broadcast markets.

The move will affect Comcast video subscribers in Chico, Redding, Vallejo, Benicia and portions of Contra Costa County where KCRA is offered as an out-of-market NBC affiliate alongside a primary NBC affiliate that serves that market.

After April 6, customers in Chico and Redding will need to watch KNVN (Channel 24) if they want to continue viewing NBC programming. In Benicia and Vallejo, customers are being directed to Comcast-owned KNTV (Channel 11) for NBC shows.

“While the neighboring or out-of-market broadcast station may no longer be available, you’ll continue to have access to the local station affiliated with the same national network,” Comcast said. “This means that you won’t miss out on national programming, although it may be found on a different channel. Please note that you may need to update the scheduled recordings on your DVR.”

Affected viewers who want to watch KCRA’s local news broadcasts are being told to download the NewsOn app for smart TV platforms or stream those broadcasts on KCRA’s website.

Last year, Comcast warned those same customers that KCRA and around three dozen other Hearst-owned stations would be removed from its systems in service areas that fell outside of those station’s primary broadcast markets.

At the time, Comcast said the decision came at a time when it was negotiating continued carriage of Hearst’s local stations and that Hearst demanded more money for out-of-market distribution.

“The owner of the station from the neighboring market is insisting we pay additional fees to continue to carry their station in your area,” the notice said. “That station offers much of the same content as the one in your local market. In an effort to keep costs down for our customers, we didn’t accept their proposal.”

The plan caused an outcry among some national politicians, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who argued that some of her constituents would be forced to watch local news programming from a channel based in another state if Comcast removed Hearst-owned ABC station WCVB (Channel 5) from its systems.

In December, Comcast relented, saying it had reached an agreement with Hearst to continue providing the affected local stations to out-of-market subscribers.

“We have come to an agreement with the owners of these stations that will allow us to offer them in the same manner as we have in the past,” a Comcast representative said in a statement. “As a result, these stations will remain in our channel lineup.”

What Comcast didn’t say — and what’s apparent now — is the fix was temporary and involved a limited number of Hearst stations. Some Hearst stations, including WCVB, will continue to be carried on systems beyond their home markets, while others — including KCRA — will be dropped.

Other stations affected by the move include WLKY (Channel 32), WYFF (Channel 4), WXII (Channel 11), WLWT (Channel 5) and WJCL (Channel 22), which will be removed from out-of-market systems on March 31. KCRA and two other stations — KOAT (Channel 7) and KSBW (Channel 8) — will be removed from out-of-market systems on April 6.

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