LIN Stations Go Dark in Retrans Row
One of many fierce carriage battles shaping up
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/5/2008 8:00:00 PM
LIN TV followed through on its threat to pull its signal at 15 stations, following failed negotiations with Time Warner Cable (TWC). It's the latest skirmish between cable operators and television stations that want money for consenting to let cable operators retransmit their signals.
The LIN stations include WISH Indianapolis and KXAN Austin. (For updates on LIN-TWC negotiations, visit www.broadcastingcable.com.)
The contract, which expired Oct. 2, covers 11 markets and 2.7 million TWC subscribers, according to Pali Research. Affected viewers in Austin, for example, awoke to a message on the screen saying, “By refusing us an extension, LIN TV pulled KXAN from Time Warner Cable.” Some TWC systems reportedly replaced the LIN signal with Starz programing during the impasse.
Battles over consent fees are heating up. Around half of the consent contracts expire by Jan. 1. Broadcasters view retrans revenue as vital in an economic slump.
LIN President/CEO Vincent Sadusky recently inked carriage deals with DirecTV and Charter, and had identified TWC as the last major retrans hurdle for the near term. Nexstar chief Perry Sook has predicted double-digit growth in retrans revenue this year (it represented $18 million for Nexstar in 2007), with “the bulk of our contracts” due up by the end of 2009.
The LIN-TWC fight comes against a backdrop of concern on Capitol Hill and the FCC. Cable operators have sought a retransmission consent quiet period—some wanted it to begin as early as this month—to avoid signals being pulled from cable systems in the run-up to the switch to digital television. Broadcasters have volunteered a four-week hiatus right around the February 17 switch, but oppose anything longer.
Back at LIN, the Providence-based broadcaster suggests affected viewers watch on “alternative means,” such as Dish Network and Verizon FiOS, both which have subscriber promotions with LIN. TWC instructs viewers to watch LIN stations via antenna or over the Internet.
While negotiations had failed late on Oct. 2, the mud-slinging continued into Friday. “LIN TV already makes millions of dollars in additional advertising revenue as a direct result of being on Time Warner Cable,” TWC Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer said. “Demanding more is just plain greedy.”
Countered LIN: “Time Warner has known since August that the contract expired on Oct. 2. We previously offered TW an extension and they didn't accept it, nor even respond.”
Linn is asking too much from the cable operators and is gloating that they have FIOS, which has no subscribers to speak of. Why should the public have to pay exorbitant prices to pick up Linn signals, when they get their licenses for free from the FCC? Why has the Kevin Martin, FCC Chairman, not made broadcast signals a la carte instead of making cable operators put broadcast signals on the lowest basic tier? We could find the true value of these broadcast stations if the public bought them individually.
Hank Bradley - 10/7/2008 12:54:00 PM EDT
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