Football Fans Left in Dark as Time Warner-LIN Dispute Continues

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The retransmission-consent standoff between Time Warner Cable and LIN TV left the cable operator’s football fans in Green Bay, Wis., Buffalo, N.Y., and Indianapolis without their games on cable Sunday.

The nation’s second-largest cable company and LIN TV negotiated throughout the weekend, but as of Sunday night had still failed to come up with a contract renewal to put the broadcaster’s 15 stations back on Time Warner’s lineup in 11 markets.

Over the weekend, Time Warner handed out about 50,000 free antennas to subscribers so they could pick up the blacked-out station signals over the air, according to Time Warner director of public relations Robyn Watson. In Indianapolis and Buffalo, the cable company aired audio from radio broadcasts of National Football League games on TV channels in those markets, according to local newspapers.

The LIN outlets went dark, with the broadcaster pulling their signals, Friday when the old retransmission-consent deal between both sides expired at the end of the day Oct. 2.

LIN is seeking cash compensation for carriage of its stations, payments that Time Warner says it won’t fork over for signals that are available for free over the air. The potential license fees add up to millions of dollars, according to Time Warner and analysts,

The markets involved are Green Bay, Wis.; Austin, Texas; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Indianapolis; Mobile, Ala.; Springfield, Mass.; Terre Haute, Ind. and Toledo, Ohio.

In Indianapolis, the actual operator that had been carrying three LIN-owned stations and the broadcaster’s local weather channel is Bright House Networks, and about 106,000 subscribers are affected. Bright House has a business relationship with Time Warner, which negotiates its retransmission-consent deals in that market.

Over the weekend, Time Warner and Bright House distributed thousands of antennas to customers, with long lines for the devices at Time Warner’s offices in Buffalo, according to a report in The Buffalo News.

As of Sunday Time Warner had distributed about 50,000 antennas, Watson said, while Bright House Sunday declined to say how many antennas it had handed out.

In Green Bay, Time Warner subscribers lost access on cable to NFL action in which the Packers lost, 27-24, to the Atlanta Falcons.

In Indianapolis, Bright House made arrangement’s to broadcast radio station HANK-FM’s play-by-play coverage of the Colts game against the Houston Texans on its Channel 2, according to The Indianapolis Star.

As it turned out, the Colts mounted a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Texans, winning 31- 27.

Similarly, in Buffalo Time Warner provided audio of WGRF-FM’s radio coverage of the Buffalo Bill’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, a game the Bills lost 41 to 17, on two of its TV channels, according to The Buffalo News.

Time Warner told The Buffalo News that it had made special arrangements to ship in antennas and was handing out “hundreds an hour.” The cable operator was also offering a $20 credit to subscribers who bought antennas at Best Buy, Circuit City, Radio Shack, Target and Wal-Mart, according to the newspaper.

One of the TV stations that went dark in Indianapolis is the Univision affiliate WIIH-TV. But over the weekend Bright House secured a satellite feed of the Spanish-language service to replace WIIH-TV.

In place of WISH-TV in Indianapolis, Bright House was airing Starz Kids & Family. CBS College Sports Network was in WNDY-TV’s former channel slot, and SoapNet in the local weather network’s slot, a Bright House spokeswoman said Sunday.

Although Wall Street analysts have estimated that 2.7 million Time Warner subscribers are impacted, the cable operator says that actually only 1.5 million of its customers are affected.

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