Disney/Time Warner: Close But Not Done

Though 'major issues' resolved, no announcement expected yet
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According to
a source familiar with the talks, there is still no deal between Time
Warner Cable (TWC) and Disney for carriage of Disney cable nets--ESPN, Disney
Channel--and TV stations including ABC-owned stations
in the top two markets.

The
companies continue to maintain they are close, but one source said not to
look for any announcements today (Aug. 31). There were signs Sunday
that the two had made major progress in their often
heated negotiations, with a source saying the "major issues" had been
resolved.

Those would include the price of Disney Channel, at least from TWC's perspective, according to the source. A deal would also apply to carriage on cable operator Brighthouse Networks.

D-day is
Sept. 2 for renewal for viewers could face the prospect of losing access
to ESPN and ABC as football season and the new prime time season prepare
to kick off.

The FCC has
been monitoring the talks. It was put on notice by some powerful
legislators last fall that it was consumer-unfriendly for stations or
networks to go dark on cable systems during retrans
impasses. FCC Chairman Juilus Genachowski pledged to look into it,
which has included collecting comment on the petition by TWC and
other MVPDs to open a rulemaking on possible changes.

Those would include standstill agreements to keep signals on during impasses as well as outside arbitration.

A case could
be made, and some broadcasters have argued it generally in retrans
comments at the FCC, that it is in cable operators' interest not to have
deals done until the last minute to buttress their argument to the FCC
that the retrans system is broken
and viewers are paying the price. Asked if that figured into Time
Warner Cable's approach, a spokeswoman said no. "Our negotiating
strategy in this and all programming deals is to keep the programming on
the air at a reasonable price without disruption to
our customers."

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