Will the Next Holiday Be Merrier for TV Execs?


No one much likes the end-of-year ritual in which consumers are threatened with losing their favorite shows if programmers and distributors can’t renew their contracts by Jan. 1

Now there is some buzz that the negotiators are tired of having their holidays ruined by fruitless talks at a negotiating table when they should be enjoying fruitcakes at the family dinner table or counting down the second to New Year’s rather than counting subscribers.

(Discussions between Sinclair and Time Warner Cable ran down to the midnight deadline on Dec. 31 when the parties agreed to an extension. They’ll be burning the midnight oil again because the extension runs out Friday night.)

Industry executives, who preferred to stay off the record given the top-secret nature of all aspects of carriage agreements, said that the idea of using different end dates is at least being discussed, if not adopted, in some situations.

The Dec. 31 date was convenient as far as chief financial officers were concerned because it usually coincided with the end of fiscal years. But some negotiators also liked the tradition because they thought it gave them leverage, particularly if they felt their opposite numbers would rather be home than fighting for the last few dollars as contract talks dragged on

“I think it’s gotten to the point where everyone thinks this is over-rated,” said one veteran negotiator. “People are waking up and saying ‘OK. Do we need to do it 12/31?’Probably not. Once that issue is off the table, it allows people to take their vacations.”