Comcast has reached an agreement with local broadcasters to continue carrying 35 local channels in 38 different markets which the cable operator said last month would be dropped on December 22.

“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 spokesperson told the TV Answer Man this morning. “As a result, these stations will remain on our channel lineup, and we are notifying customers about this update.”

In the 38 markets, Comcast now provides more than one affiliate for at least one network. For example, in Calvert County, Maryland, the cable operator provides both the Baltimore NBC station (WBAL-TV) and the Washington, D.C. local NBC (WRC-TV).

The reason for the dual coverage is that some residents in that market (and the 37 other markets) have interest in news from both areas because they live roughly the same distance from each. (The 38 markets are largely in rural/suburban areas, and the stations are almost all owned by Hearst Communications.)

However, Comcast has had to pay the owners of both stations to deliver their signals. And with pay TV operators looking to cut programming costs, the cable operator said last month that it would jettison one of the two affiliates in the 38 markets.

But some politicians, including Massachusetts U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and two state congressmen, blasted the plan to remove the stations, saying their constituents needed coverage from a Massachusetts station which was scheduled to be dropped.

“Particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, loss of access to this station would be harmful to Bristol County (Massachusetts) viewers who rely on state-specific announcements to stay healthy and safe,” stated a letter to Comcast from the four Massachusetts Democrats, which noted that Comcast’s drop list included WCVB-TV, a Boston-area ABC affiliate now available to Bristol County (Massachusetts) subscribers. The Bristol County subscribers would have kept WLNE, a Rhode Island ABC affiliate, because the market is considered a Providence, Rhode Island territory.

After the letter, Comcast said it would try to negotiate a new deal with the stations’ owner, which it now has in place. To see a list of the stations involved, click here. 

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— Phillip Swann