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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 03, 2008

Time Warner Loses Channels Over Dispute with Lin TV

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Disputes between competing companies is standard practice among most industries, but disputes between partners are a little less common. And, when these disputes have a negative impact on the customer – it’s time for someone to take a stand and say that enough is enough.

Todd Shields reported on Bloomberg (News - Alert).com today that Time Warner Cable Inc. viewers in 11 markets including Indianapolis are without some television programming today as the company failed in its negotiations with station owner Lin TV Corp. A previous contract expired at midnight and the two companies were unable to agree on carriage fees.

Now, the cable operator is no longer running Lin TV programming on its system, according to Lin TV spokeswoman Courtney Guertin. Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable reported in a statement that Lin TV removed its channels after demanding millions in cash.

“Lin TV already makes millions of dollars in additional advertising revenue as a direct result of being on Time Warner Cable,'' Melinda Witmer, the New York-based cable company's chief programming officer, said in the statement.

Lin, based in Rhode Island, owns or operates 29 stations. Its shares rose 1 cent to $4.30 at 11:37 a.m. The same shares has lost 65 percent this year before today. Shares of Time Warner Cable rose 60 cents to $22.85 after declining 19 percent this year before today.

The dispute centers on retransmission fees or payments cable operators make for the right to carry broadcast signals. Many such contracts expire on December 31 and could force cable viewers throughout the U.S. to look elsewhere for their favorite programming.

In a statement released today, Pali Capital LLC analyst Rich Greenfield said, “We believe this sets a worrisome tone for how TWC will deal with retransmission-consent negotiations with other broadcasters over the coming months.''

Those Time Warner Cable customers affected reside in such markets as Buffalo, New York; Austin, Texas; and Columbus, Ohio. Lin's Fox affiliate in Green Bay, Wisconsin, WLUK, was in line to carry Sunday's game of the National Football League's Packers, but that of course now is not an option.

Today the station's website urged customers to “watch WLUK-TV through other means,'' including Dish Network Corp.'s satellite service or by using an antenna. While such options can work today, come February of next year, customers won’t have the same choices on their televisions and customers may need to consider turning more to the Web for the viewing they prefer.  

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tim Gray