Disney/Time Warner Cable: Close, But Not Done


According to a source familiar with the talks, there is still no deal between Time Warner Cable and The Walt Disney Co. for carriage of the programmer's cable networks, including ESPN and Disney Channel--and retransmission consent for ABC-owned TV stations, including those in the top two markets.

The companies continue to maintain they are close, but one source said don't look for any announcements today (Aug. 31). There were signs Sunday that the two had made major progress in their often heated negotiations, with a source saying the "major issues" had been resolved.

Those would include the price of Disney Channel, at least from Time Warner's perspective, according to the source.
A deal would also apply to carriage on cable operator Brighthouse Networks.

D-day is midnight on Sept. 2 for renewal or viewers could face the prospect of losing access to ESPN and ABC as the football and the new primetime season prepare for kickoff.

The Federal Communications Commission has been monitoring the talks. It was put on notice by some powerful legislators last fall that it was consumer unfriendly for stations or networks to go dark on cable systems during retrans impasses. FCC chairman Juilus Genachowski pledged to look into it, which has included collecting comment on the petition by Time Warner and other MVPDs to open a rulemaking on possible changes.

Those would include standstill agreements to keep signals on during impasses, as well as outside arbitration.

A case could be made, and some broadcasters have argued it generally in retrans comments at the FCC, that it is in cable operators' interest not to have deals done until the last minute to buttress their argument to the commission that the retrans system is broken and viewers are paying the price.

Asked if that figured into Time Warner Cable's approach, a spokeswoman said no. "Our negotiating strategy in this and all programming deals is to keep the programming on the air at a reasonable price without disruption to our customers."