TWC in Retrans Talks with CBS, Journal Broadcast Ahead of Deadline

Parties' Contracts Expire on June 30

Facing retransmission-consent contracts that expire on Sunday night with Journal Broadcast Group and CBS Corp., Time Warner Cable said it is continuing to negotiate with both parties.

The No. 2 cable operator has a retransmission-consent deal covering six Journal Broadcast stations in Wisconsin, California and Nebraska that concludes on June 30. TWC has said the the Journal stations – in Milwaukee; Green Bay – Appleton, Wis; Palm Springs, Calif.; and Omaha Neb. – are demanding a 200% rate increase for their programming.

On their various web sites, the stations – WGBA (NBC) and WACY (MNT) in Green Bay; WTMJ (NBC) in Milwaukee; KMTV (CBS) in Omaha; and KMIR (NBC) and KPSE (MNT) in Palm Springs – say that negotiations are ongoing, but they are informing Time Warner Cable customers of the possibility their channels may go dark.

TWC said on Thursday afternoon that talks were ongoing; Journal Broadcasting executives didn’t return phone calls seeking an update by presstime.

The MSO’s contract with CBS, which also ends on June 30, is far broader, covering not only retrans deals for owned-and operated stations in the TWC footprint, including those in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas-Ft.Worth, but cable assets: premium channel Showtime, sports service CBS Sports Network and the Smithsonian Channel. It was unclear at presstime if TVGN, the former TV Guide Channel, is part of the distribution discussions. CBS in March acquired a 50% interest in TV Guide, parent of cable network TVGN and the web site.

Time Warner Cable would only say that talks are continuing, while CBS declined comment.

Having long been the most-watched broadcast network, CBS has taken an aggressive tack when it comes to retrans, recording  a 62% rise in payments from cable, satellite and telco TV providers in the first quarter of 2013. The company is seeking up to $500 million in total retrans fees this year.

With the 2013-14 TV season and the NFL campaign sill months away, there may not be major impetus for the sides to reach a renewal ahead of the deadline. However, the adaptation of Stephen King’s Under The Dome and warm-weather month perennial Big Brother are on the CBS dial, while Showtime is debuting new series Ray Donovan, starring Liev Schreiber, and the final season of serial killer series Dexter, the network’s top show, on Sunday night.