As Time Warner Cable's retransmission-consent dispute with Fox heads toward a New Year's Eve deadline, the cable operator is telling subscribers how they can watch the programmer's shows using an over-the-air antenna or by visiting Web sites like Hulu and Fox.com.
"We apologize to our customers who are missing some of their favorite programs. And we hope this unfair blackout caused by the TV networks ends quickly," Time Warner Cable says on its site dedicated to the retrans standoff, RollOverorGetTough.com. "But we are determined to hold the line on cable prices -- and we're not backing down. In the meantime, we hope the options below provide you with additional ways to view your favorite television shows."
The cable operator even offers pointers on how to "enhance the viewing experience by connecting your PC to your television," with a two-page document describing how to connect a Windows PC or Mac to a TV set available here, as well as a three-minute instructional video.
"Many of the shows that these networks may withhold from you are available for free online on websites like Fancast.com, Hulu.com or Fox.com," TWC says in a customer notice on RollOverorGetTough.com. "There's lots of great programming available for you to watch online, including recent episodes of many of your favorite primetime shows. Of course, you can view them on your computer screen, but the experience gets better when you connect your home computer to your TV."
About 3.9 million of Time Warner Cable's customers are in markets with Fox owned-and-operated broadcast stations, including in New York and Los Angeles. Bright House Networks customers in Orlando, Fla., and elsewhere are also affected, as the MSO has an agreement to use TWC's programming contracts; Bright House has set up a customer-information site at www.yourrighttowatch.com.
News Corp. is asking the cable companies for about $1 per month per subscriber for the right to carry Fox TV stations. The programmer is also negotiating for carriage of cable networks, including FX, Fuel TV and Fox Reality Channel (but not Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network).
In prior retrans disputes, cable operators have pointed subscribers to over-the-air and Web sources for programming -- in some cases even offering free antennas, as Mediacom Communications did in its 2006 standoff with Sinclair Broadcast Group. Mediacom and Sinclair are again engaged in a retrans dispute, with an agreement that expires Dec. 31.