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Gray reaches tentative deal to renew NBC affiliations

For several months, Gray Television has been quietly plucking NBC’s famous rainbow-feathered peacock from the logos of its television stations.

The rebranding, which was not been reported until now, was part of a directive issued by Gray to local stations like Memphis broadcast outlet WMC-TV (Channel 5) and Huntsville’s WAFF (Channel 48), as the company worked with Comcast’s NBC Universal toward a new affiliation agreement.

On Wednesday, Gray announced a tentative deal was in place that would keep NBC programming on nearly six dozen TV stations. Precise terms of the agreement were not disclosed, and it also was not known if the NBC peacock would be returning to station logos anytime soon.

Gray said its current affiliation deal was set to lapse on Friday, a move that would have left NBC Universal scrambling for new affiliates in 56 television markets.

A source familiar with the negotiations said Gray wanted more-favorable terms for distribution of NBC programming on its stations, including a reduction in fees paid to NBC for its prime-time and sports programming to offset carriage of Gray’s local TV stations on the streaming service, Peacock.

NBC also negotiates carriage of Gray’s affiliated stations on streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and Fubo TV, something Gray and others in the broadcast industry are hoping to change.

A movement called the Coalition for Local News, which Gray participates in, is lobbying the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to impart cable-like carriage restrictions on streaming services. Under those rules, streaming upstarts would have to negotiate directly with Gray and other broadcast station owners for carriage of their signals, the way cable and satellite companies do today.

Opponents say imposing outdated cable and satellite regulations on streaming services would drive up the cost of online alternatives like YouTube TV and Fubo, at a time when streaming services are gaining favor with consumers who are fleeing higher cable and satellite bills.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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