The rhetoric continues to fly in the retrans battle between Hearst Television and Time Warner Cable, with the broadcaster accusing the cable company of creating an "illusion" of a breakdown in negotiations and the MSO contending that talks are ongoing.
Hearst pulled the broadcast signals of 15 stations in 13 markets from Time Warner Cable customers at midnight on July 10, after the two could not reach a retransmission consent agreement. Hearst had granted TWC a one week extension -- the old agreement expired officially on July1 - but could not hammer out a deal in time.
The stations involved are: KITV-ABC, Honolulu; WCVB-ABC, Boston; WMTW-ABC, Portland, Maine; WNNE-NBC, Hartford, Vt.; WPTZ-NBC and WPTZ-D2 This TV, Plattsburgh, N.Y.; WXII-NBC, Winston-Salem, N.C.; KCWE-CW and KMBC-ABC, Kansas City, Mo.; KETV-ABC, Lincoln, Neb.; WLKY-CBS, Louisville, Ky.; WLWT-NBC, Cincinnati; WMURABC, Manchester, N.H.; and WTAEABC, Pittsburgh. Hearst Television president David Barrett said in a statement Wednesday that the broadcaster presented a proposal to TWC Tuesday that was within 5% of its offer to Hearst on July 9. Time Warner Cable, Hearst said, has failed to respond.
"As of today, Time Warner Cable is attempting to portray a stalemate - when none exists." Barrett said in a statement. "We're disappointed to say that Time Warner Cable is refusing to participate in a negotiating process that has enabled us to conclude more than 150 agreements, without service interruptions, in recent months. Instead, Time Warner is acting as the conductor of the public relations bandwagon ridden by other multi-channel video distributors in various unrelated negotiations with program providers."
Barrett's comments were seconded by the National Association of Broadcasters, which issued its own statement on the retrans stalemate, accusing Time Warner Cable of intentionally stalling talks in the hopes that a longer outage would spur some kind of regulatory reform.
"It's no coincidence that Time Warner Cable, Dish and DirecTV are responsible for three out of every four retransmission consent disruptions in 2012," said NAB executive vice president of communications Dennis Wharton in a statement. "Rather than negotiate in the free market for the most popular programming on TV, this cozy pay TV cabal is manufacturing a phony crisis in hopes that Congress will fix a 'problem' that these companies are creating."
Hearings on retransmission consent reform are scheduled to start next week in the U.S. Senate, with Time Warner Cable executive vice president and chief programming officer Melinda Witmer expected to be among those testifying.
Time Warner Cable for its part said it is in regular contact with Hearst. And it did acknowledge receiving an offer from Hearst Tuesday, but would not comment on its size.
"Negotiations are ongoing; in fact, our lead negotiator had lunch with Hearst officials yesterday, and we received a written proposal from them last night," Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff said in a statement.
While the Hearst and TWC are at odds as to how those talks are going, Huff said there is one issue that they both can agree on.
"We agree with Hearst that the programming should come back on the air," Huff said in a statement. "But only Hearst has the power to restore the programming. We agree with our customers that they shouldn't lose their favorite network shows -- that's why we've made great efforts to bring it to them where legally possible while Hearst is blacking out our customers."