Hearst, Ops Extend Retrans Deals

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Hearst-Argyle Television Inc., which owns several ABC
affiliates, agreed to extend retransmission-consent agreements with five top MSOs last
week after the latest deadline to cut deals expired Jan. 20.

The company agreed to extend retransmission-consent
agreements with Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and
Cable One Inc. until Jan. 26. Hearst extended Time Warner Cable's retransmission deal
until Feb. 15.

Hearst, which owns 50 percent of Lifetime Television, wants
to package sharp license-fee increases for Lifetime and carriage of the new Lifetime Movie
Network along with retransmission consent. The Lifetime connections are the key point of
contention.

"[The talks] are a struggle, as you might
imagine," Hearst-Argyle chief operating officer Tony Vinciquerra said. "The fact
is that we bring value to the cable systems, and we think we should be compensated for
that."

Vinciquerra said Hearst isn't seeking fees for
retransmission consent, explaining that the company views "compensation" as a
license-fee increase for Lifetime, plus carriage of LMN. This has Hearst at odds with some
MSOs.

"We're not going to pay for retransmission consent,
either directly or indirectly. Neither will we agree to retransmission-consent deals going
forward that are tied to the launch of new services," Time Warner spokesman Mike
Luftman said.

A total of 19 Time Warner systems are affected by the
Hearst talks, including its Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; Albany, N.Y.; Jackson, Miss.;
Greensboro, S.C.; Portland, Maine; Jackson, Miss.; Orlando, Fla.; and Cincinnati
operations.

Meanwhile, Cox dropped Hearst's Boston station, WCVB-TV,
from its Rhode Island system last Thursday at midnight. But sources said the drop wasn't
tied to the broader Hearst-Cox talks.

Cox New England vice president of government and public
affairs John Wolfe said the system carries Rhode Island ABC affiliate WLNE-TV in addition
to Hearst's WCVB. He added that Cox dropped WCVB because it wants a "more
consistent" channel lineup throughout New England, and it didn't need two ABC
affiliates on the same system.

Naturally, the move annoyed WCVB. "We'd be happy to
offer them our signal for free without compensation at all, and they are not
interested," WCVB director of programming Elizabeth Cheng said.

The Walt Disney Co. and ABC Inc. are negotiating
retransmission consent for ABC-owned-and-operated stations in exchange for carriage of
SoapNet, which launches today (Jan. 24).

Time Warner and ABC agreed to extend retransmission consent
for ABC owned-and-operated stations until Feb. 15 -- the same day the Hearst agreement
expires -- Luftman said.

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