January 14, 2011

Time Warner Facing Local TV Blackout

Time Warner Cable Inc subscribers are facing the possibility of losing some of their local network TV stations.

Time Warner is trying to reach a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. on the fees that Time Warner pays to carry Sinclair's stations.  The two sides said Friday that they agreed to a second extension, so the existing contract now expires at midnight on Saturday.

Local affiliates of Fox, CBS and ABC could go offline for some Time Warner customers. 

Time Warner said that customers will still be able to see network programming, assuming a blackout takes place. 

The company plans to replace signals from Sinclair with feeds from nearby stations in other cities, a tactic Time Warner said it can pursue under its existing contract with Sinclair until the end of February.  That means subscribers will still see shows like "Glee" and "Desperate Housewives" but not the local news.

Sinclair general counsel Barry Faber said the broadcaster was looking for a week extension.  However, spokeswoman Maureen Huff said that Time Warner is confident it can reach a deal with Sinclair in the next 24 hours.

Sinclair and regional cable provider Bright House Networks said on Friday that they reached a tentative agreement on fees and have extended negotiations until next Friday to work out details. 
Those talks cover stations reaching about 1 million Bright House customers.

These types of disputes have grown more controversial over the past few years as broadcast companies try to gain higher fees from cable TV providers. 

Broadcasters traditionally relied on advertising to pay the bills.  However, they have also been looking for a second source of revenue as competition for ad dollars grows stiffer.


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