Thousands of Delaware residents lose access to WBOC-TV

DOVER — Verizon dropped WBOC-TV Sunday in the midst of contract negotiations, leaving about 18,500 subscribers in Kent and Sussex counties without access to WBOC, FOX21 and WBOC Classics.

“It came as a complete and utter shock,” said Craig Jahelka, president of Draper Media.

Mr. Jahelka said the two companies had been negotiating since March but after WBOC rejected Verizon’s most recent offer, the telecommunications giant opted to cease airing WBOC’s three channels.

“For some reason Verizon has chosen to stop carrying us right in the new fall season and the middle of the NFL season,” Mr. Jahelka said.

Verizon, which could not be reached for comment, appears to present a different story.

Verizon customers are now greeted with the following message when they turn to WBOC, FOX21 or WBOC Classics: “Your Fios TV is working. Despite our best efforts to secure a reasonable new agreement, WBOC-TV has removed their channels from Fios TV as of October 1, 2017. We’re hopeful that they will reconsider their initial proposed rate increase of over 175% and allow our customers access to their programming again. For more information please visit Verizon.com/details.”

According to Mr. Jahelka, WBOC did not request an increase of 175 percent — in fact, he called that a “flat-out lie.” He declined to discuss what WBOC has asked for, saying the company does “not negotiate in public.”

Fortunately for fans of WBOC’s broadcasts, programs can still be viewed in several ways. All the newscasts are aired on Facebook Live, and “Outdoors Delmarva” and “Delmarva Life” are posted on the station’s website.

WBOC is also available through CBS All Access, a streaming service that costs $5.99 a month.

The station is hoping residents of the Delmarva Peninsula who are unable to access WBOC will pressure Verizon, bringing them back to the negotiating table.

Comments on a post by WBOC on its Facebook page about the dispute were mixed.

Many people blasting WBOC for the alleged increase request, noting the costs would be passed on to viewers. But others defended the station, with one man speculating “there is more to this situation than any of us know.”

In a post on its website, WBOC wrote that “Verizon now pays much, much more to carry non-local channels that are watched far less than WBOC and FOX21.”

Mr. Jahelka said the company had a dispute with DirecTV a few years ago that resulted in the provider dropping WBOC, but the squabble “lasted literally less than 12 hours.”

He’s hoping this situation can be resolved soon as well, but only time will tell how long the standoff continues.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.