Time Warner Cable: We Got 'Good Deal' From LIN TV

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In rebuttal to comments by LIN TV, Time Warner Cable Friday said that it had secured “a good deal” with the broadcaster for retransmission-consent of more than a dozen TV stations following a month-long blackout.

“We did not hold out for four weeks without that television signal to not get a good deal,” said Alex Dudley, Time Warner Cable’s vice president of public relations. “We spent a good deal of money getting antennas to our customers. We were prepared to hold out for the long haul here. We gave away quite a few antennas.”

On Wednesday, after a dispute that blacked out 15 LIN TV stations in 11 markets, Time Warner and LIN announced that they had reached a new retransmission-consent agreement. The dispute had left 15 stations pulled off cable Oct. 3, and affected more than 1.5 million Time Warner and Bright House Networks subscribers in 11 markets.

A day after the new deal was unveiled, during a third-quarter earnings call LIN TV CEO Vincent Sadusky was asked about the pact, which covers analog and digital signals for 17 stations.

“The bottom line is we received the compensation that we set out to receive from Time Warner,” Sadusky told Wall Street analysts. “There’s not much more to say than that.”

When asked by one Wall Street analyst, “Can you confirm that there will be cash payments in the Time Warner contract,” Sadusky said, “Yes.”

During the dispute, LIN TV said publicly said that it was asking for a 30-cent monthly license fee for its stations. But Time Warner suggested that LIN TV’s public demands were different than those it sought at the negotiating table, behind closed doors.

“They were very careful to say [on the third-quarter conference call] they got what they wanted, not what they asked for,” Dudley said. “They told us what they wanted, but they didn’t tell the public what they wanted.”

But Dudley wouldn’t comment specifically on whether cash was part of the new LIN TV agreement, which includes confidentiality clauses.

In the past cable operators have bought ad time on TV stations as part of the compensation in retransmission-consent deals. And Sadusky said during the third-quarter call that Time Warner was a “significant advertiser” on LIN TV stations.

“This concept of measuring cash is a little bit flawed, because when we buy advertising from station owners we don’t pay on credit, we pay cash,” Dudley said. “And we’ve always bought advertising from station owners. So there’s always been an exchange of value back and forth in these agreements. It’s not a one-way street here. So for them to come out and say, ‘We got cash,’ it’s almost like us going out and saying, ‘We got the TV signal.’”

But Dudley declined to comment on whether Time Warner is buying ads, or paying license fees, as part of its new LIN TV pact.

The new LIN TV-Time Warner retransmission-consent deal covers analog and digital signals for 17 TV stations: 15 carried by Time Warner and Bright House Networks, whose old deals expired Oct. 2 and were pulled; and two stations in Norfolk, Va., whose deals with Time Warner are due to expire the end of the year.

LIN TV stations were dropped in Austin, Texas; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Green Bay, Wis.; Indianapolis; Mobile, Ala.; Springfield, Mass.; Terre Haute, Ind.; and Toledo, Ohio.

The dispute had involved the three LIN TV stations that Bright House carries in Indianapolis and two it carries in Mobile.

Time Warner pointed out that the new retransmission-consent deal was struck a day before the start of the November sweeps, which sets the ad rates for local TV stations.

Wednesday, when the pact was announced, was also the day of the last game of the World Series, as well as the night that Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama aired an infomercial on several TV networks in primetime.

“It is not a coincidence that this dispute was resolved on the eve of sweeps,” Dudley said. “There are other significant events, too… The timing of the resolution of this agreement was not coincidental.”

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