Sinclair, Time Warner Cable Retrans Battle Continues


Time Warner Cable and Sinclair Broadcast Group, after flirting briefly with the possibility of entering into arbitration, appear to be as far apart as ever in their ongoing retransmission consent dispute.
Sinclair first brought up the possibility of arbitration on Dec. 13, but pulled back that offer after Time Warner Cable requested a series of conditions, the biggest of which was that only Sinclair's Big Four major-network affiliates be included. The two parties continue to talk, but according to Sinclair executive vice president and general counsel Barry Faber, arbitration is not currently part of the discussion.
"The idea of arbitration right now is a completely dead issue," Faber said.
Time Warner Cable's carriage agreement with Sinclair is set to expire at midnight on Jan. 1.
Sinclair wants its The CW and MyNetwork TV affiliates included in the talks and Time Warner Cable does not. In fact, Time Warner Cable doesn't want to pay anything for The CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates, but has offered to extend  the stations must-carry status to ensure continued carriage.
Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff said in a statement that the MSO was hopeful an agreement could be reached.
"We'd still like to reach an agreement or enter into arbitration with Sinclair, so that we can provide our customers with uninterrupted programming, and we're hoping that Sinclair will begin to act in a more reasonable manner," Huff said.
In a statement, Sinclair said that Time Warner Cable would only agree to the arbitration if several onerous conditions were met, including that it only relate to a small number of stations, that the arbitration would be conducted in "complete secrecy" and that the arbitrator would not be allowed to review evidence of the amounts the MSO pays to carry any channel other than a local broadcast station. In the case of local broadcast stations, Sinclair said the MSO would not allow the arbitrator access to the amounts it pays stations owned by a broadcast network.
Sinclair has about 58 stations in 35 markets across the country. The dispute involves about 30 stations in Time Warner Cable territory, about half of which are MyNetwork TV and CW affiliates.
In a separate matter, four stations owned by Smith Media in Utica, N.Y.(NBC and The CW) and Burlington, Vt. (Fox and ABC), went dark on Time Warner Cable systems in those areas on Dec. 15. In the interim, some Time Warner Cable customers in Central New York are receiving signals from the Wilkes-Barre, Pa. NBC affiliate.
Smith Media said it is in ongoing talks with Time Warner Cable and is confident an agreement can be reached.