Viewers are equal parts confused, irritated and angry that LIN and Time Warner Cable (TWC) failed to reach a retransmission consent agreement late last week, resulting in 15 LIN stations being blacked out on Time Warner systems. TWC handed out some 50,000 antennas over the weekend to help viewers get the local picture. Many found the old-school technology insufficient. “Watching the Colts on Rabbit Ears yesterday was terrible but at least we got to watch it,” one viewer wrote to WISH Indianapolis. (WISH is actually clashing with the cable provider Bright House Networks there, as Bright House negotiates its retrans deals through TWC.) “Yes, there was a lot of snow but it was better than nothing.”
Around 115,000 subscribers in the Indianapolis TV market are affected. Many were hoping to watch the Colts on the CBS affiliate. “They want their WISH TV,” says WISH President/General Manager Jeff White. “It’s gratifying to know how important we are in people’s lives.”
Negotiations between LIN and TWC are ongoing, but both sides remain at an impasse. A TWC spokesperson said customers appreciated the rabbit ears: “They’re not 1,000 % happy about the situation, but they’re glad we’re offering an alternative and that we’re fighting for our customers.”
At KXAN Austin, which greets Web visitors with a large “Time Warner Cable Has Let You Down” banner on the home page, President/General Manager Eric Lassberg says most of the calls and emails are viewers who are confused about how to rig their TVs to pick up the NBC affiliate. “They’re trying to understand what they have to do to watch the station,” he says. “We’re educating them on the alternatives.”
In Green Bay, where the Packers are akin to religion for many, around 143,000 subscribers are affected by the retrans clash. WLUK General Manager Jay Zollar has gotten a couple hundred emails and calls from viewers, and is heartened to see the number of rabbit ears given out in the market. “That tells me two things,” he says. “One, clearly Time Warner appreciates our programming, and two, people clearly appreciate our programming too.”
Zollar, who famously yanked Seinfeld from WLUK in advance of a Giants-Packers playoff contest (Seinfeld is Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s favorite program) is hopeful the Fox affiliate is up and running in time for Sunday’s clash with the Seahawks. If the blackout continues, he’ll continue to watch with the help of his TWC-issued antenna.