Time Warner Cable: We Hold Big 4 Programming Cards In Sinclair Retrans Dispute


As a midnight deadline nears, Time Warner Cable, armed with Big 4 programming, says it is continuing to negotiate a retransmission-consent renewal deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Perhaps puncturing some of the station group's leverage in the dispute, Time Warner Cable said it will make Big 4 network fare available to Sinclair's ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates, should the parties' contract expire at midnight.
"We will provide all available Big 4 network programming in the event that Sinclair takes away its signals," said Rob Marcus, president and COO of Time Warner Cable, in a statement issued on Dec. 30. "We want our customers to remember that we're fighting hard to contain the rising costs of broadcast programming. We are also still working to reach a long-term agreement with Sinclair before our current contract ends tomorrow night."
The pact between the nation's No. 2 cable operator and 33 Sinclair stations within the MSO's footprint expires at 11:59 on Dec. 31.
Time Warner Cable officials say they have secured the rights to import broadcast stations, affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox NBC, from other markets to replace the Sinclair "Big 4" signals into February. Additionally, the MSO also has a deal in place with Fox covering national programming like Glee and House.
Sinclair couldn't immediately be reached for comment by press time.
Earlier in the week, Sinclair declared that negotiations with Time Warner Cable were over after the MSO rejected its most recent monthly license fee offer averaging a10 cents monthly increase per subscriber. Sinclair said on Dec. 28 that the MSO has refused to provide a financial counter-proposal, effectively ending negotiations.
During negotiations, Time Warner Cable said it has presented a number of approaches to reach an agreement with Sinclair including: offering a deal on terms that are as favorable to Sinclair as agreements Time it has negotiated with other station owners; an offer to agree to arbitration for the Big 4 networks carried by Sinclair, and revert its MyNetwork and CW networks to must-carry status; and a proposal to carry Sinclair stations a la carte, with the station group naming the price and keeping all of the money.
Regardless of the rhetoric, unless a new deal is reached tonight, the old retransmission contract will expire as 2010 turns into 2011. Sinclair says some 8.5 million TWC customers could be affected; the MSO places the number at 4 million.