December 31, 2010

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Another Retrans Fight: Sinclair Viewers Won’t Lose Their Network Programming

It wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without another retransmission consent fight (retrans for short.) Like I said earlier this year, it’s happening with increasing frequency and a byproduct of a broken system.

This year’s negotiations are with Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns Fox, ABC and CBS affiliates in several of our service areas in the Midwest, New York State, the Carolinas, and Texas. They’ve been threatening to go dark in a pretty fascinating way: claiming that Time Warner Cable has ended negotiations — shortly after hanging up the phone with us after a three-hour negotiations call.

Then having another call the next day and claiming, again, that we’ve declared negotiations are over. They’ve used some of their local news stations to breathlessly repeat the misinformation and suggest our customers switch to other providers.

To all this I say in my best and loudest Lebowski voice: Whatever, man.

We’re working hard to get a fair deal, but if we go dark at midnight we’re still going to provide the Big 4 network programming to our customers in Sinclair markets. From last night’s press release:

Time Warner Cable is working hard to reach a long-term agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting. If Sinclair refuses Time Warner Cable’s offers and requires the Company to cease carrying its signals, Time Warner Cable will continue to provide all available Big 4 network programming to its customers.

Time Warner Cable’s agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting expires at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31 and Sinclair is threatening to take its stations off the air if Time Warner Cable does not agree to its demands for large fees.

“We will provide all available Big 4 network programming in the event that Sinclair takes away its signals,” said Rob Marcus, President and Chief Operating Officer of Time Warner Cable. “We want our customers to remember that we’re fighting hard to contain the rising costs of broadcast programming. We are also still working to reach a long-term agreement with Sinclair before our current contract ends tomorrow night, and in fact discussions between the Time Warner Cable programming team and Sinclair have taken place as recently as this morning and are ongoing.”

You’ll still be able to see American Idol and Glee — even if Sinclair pulls its channels. The prime-time programming that you love will be there for you. You’ll have to watch other news channels for local news until we iron this out, and syndicated programming may be a little different. So those Small Wonder reruns you love so much may be on at a different time.

I can’t honestly say that missing out on local news from Sinclair-owned stations will be that big of a loss. I caught one of their planning editors in the Midwest using her personal Facebook page to encourage Time Warner Cable customers to switch to other providers, then urging them to contact her — presumably so they could be interviewed as “regular folks who made a decision” without any pushing from a biased news source. And, of course, she managed to continue spouting misinformation about the state of negotiations between us and Sinclair.

She is either doing this without any oversight whatsoever and cruising for a sudden career change, or she’s operating under bad judgment and worse guidance from her higher-ups who are likely in much closer communication with Sinclair Corporate.

But either way:

+- 3 Comments

  1. Green's reply

    I hope TW will find a way to sue Sinclair Broadcasting for their sensationalism involving inaccurate information and threats in an attempt to falsely persuade viewers to their side. Possibly, a class action suit.

  2. Ben's reply

    We are seeing this out of Utica, NY right now. Completely biased newscasts full of mis-leading and false information. The great thing here is that the station (WKTV) advertisers are leaving in droves because the pulled the plug on Time Warner.

    As many issues as I have with your services, I side all the way on these re-trans disputes. As long as you can still provide the network feeds, tell the locals to go punt. They will come crawling back when they see they need cable carriage to survive.

  3. Jack's reply

    Jack@Ben,

    Totally agree,

    Any stations dropped from TWC means that those stations lose ALL revenue that they would have received from cable subscribers and advertisers by staying on the air. Not to mention, all cable exposure the stations would get by being removed from cable is lost..

    Remove stations+ Remove Exposure= Lose Money. That’s why retransmission deals have to be worked out, without threatening customers with the loss of services.

    Jack

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