ELKO — TV watchers in Elko County will have to view NBC programming from Salt Lake City in the new year instead of from a local or Reno-based affiliate.
The change comes as NBCUniversal plans to discontinue its affiliation with the Elko station KENV effective 5 a.m. Jan. 1. After that, NBC programming and local content will be discontinued, and Elko Television District’s channel 10 will become a sci-fi channel.
Furthermore, NBC requires that the Elko Television District air only NBC programming from Salt Lake City’s KSL-TV because Elko is in The Nielson Co.-assigned designated market area, or DMA. Previously, NBC programming came to Elko through the Reno NBC affiliate, KRNV, which serves as the parent company of KENV.
The Elko Television District had planned to continue rebroadcasting KRNV after the change, but a letter from NBC dated Dec. 21 states that “Station KSL-TV [out of Salt Lake City] will be the only NBC affiliate in Elko County authorized to carry the NBC programming and brand.”
TV district chairman Paul Gardner says that for all intents and purposes, the letter is a cease and desist order. He called the move a “network imposed programming blackout” that takes away Elko County’s free over-the-air NBC broadcasts until a new distribution system can be installed.
“This DMA designation forces Elko, NV residents to receive network programming from Salt Lake City stations, despite a majority of viewer responses requesting news and weather programming from Nevada stations,” Gardner wrote in an email.
However, the TV district does not have the ability to import KSL, channel 5, from Salt Lake City under current conditions, Gardner said. Engineers from Elko, Lander and Eureka counties are working with KSL engineers to come up with a solution.
“We are working closely to make this happen,” he said.
Installing a new distribution system could take three weeks to several months, depending on whether the TV district, a government entity, or the Utah station, a private organization, takes the lead, Gardner said.
“We are moving as quickly as we can, but we are handcuffed by the fact that we are a government entity,” Gardner said, adding that work on mountaintop infrastructure over winter and through the holidays also presents challenges. “NBC has been on the air here for 20 years. They gave us no notice.”
Area subscribers to Dish satellite TV and DIRECTV already receive Salt Lake City stations, including KSL, and they will not be affected by the change.
Gardner said the Elko Television District board members will discuss congressional action at their Jan. 11 meeting to make Elko and Lander counties “dual DMAs” that can receive Salt Lake City and Reno NBC programming.
“Reno is a lot more relevant to Elko than Salt Lake is,” Gardner said, explaining that audience surveys over the past six years indicate that Elko viewers want local news or Nevada news first. “They won’t get that on NBC anymore.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group referred Elko Daily Free Press to comments already provided for a previous article on KENV losing its NBC affiliation.
“Losing our NBC affiliation makes our local news operation financially infeasible,” said KENV General Manager Amie Chapman on Dec. 13. “We are proud of the news coverage that our station has provided the Elko community over the years and hope that the NBC in Salt Lake City, or other Salt Lake stations for that matter, will continue that tradition.”
Chapman added Dec. 29 in an email that KRNV was "prepared to provide NBC programming to the Elko region, but NBC would not give us the rights to do so."
“This DMA designation forces Elko, NV residents to receive network programming from Salt Lake City stations, despite a majority of viewer responses requesting news and weather programming from Nevada stations.” — Paul Gardner, Elko Television District