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News Corp., Time Warner Cable Agree to Brief Extension as Retrans Deals on East Coast Expire - Broadcasting & Cable

News Corp., Time Warner Cable Agree to Brief Extension as Retrans Deals on East Coast Expire

Fox spokesman says company will allow "a little more time" as talks continue
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At the stroke of midnight Eastern Standard Time, News Corp. had not
pulled its Fox signals on the Time Warner Cable system, although the
two sides still had not sealed a retransmission consent deal for
Fox-owned stations and several Fox-owned national and regional cable
networks.

"We're still negotiating and are going to allow a
little more time," a Fox spokesman told B&C.

Time Warner Cable confirmed that it had received "a brief extension with Fox, Food, and GAC as negotiations continue."

The extension appears to be a few hours. The contracts expire according
to local time--so, for example, the deal for KTTV in Los Angeles
expires at midnight Pacific Standard Time. The national cable networks
involved expire at midnight Pacific Time as well. So a short three-hour
extension would extend the negotiations until the last deadline of the
deal.

The talks, which have been ongoing for
months, heated up in recent days as executives met in Los Angeles, the deadline
loomed and discussion focused on price. Fox is asking for $1 per subscriber for
its stations. If the parties do not come to a deal or an extension, News Corp.
is expected to pull Fox signals from Time Warner Cable systems. In an e-mail
on Dec. 30, News Corp. Deputy Chairman-President-COO Chase Carey indicated he
would not defer to arbitration
and would not authorize Fox's signals to be
telecast on TWC if a satisfactory deal was not reached.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) told Fox
that if it does not find a way to keep its broadcast signals on the air after
the Dec. 31 expiration of its contract with Time Warner, he wants the FCC to
step in and mandate that interim carriage

That came late Dec. 30 in response to Carey's letter to Kerry explaining that
Fox was not interested in arbitration of the retrans dispute, which Kerry had
proposed and Time Warner agreed to.

Both companies have active consumer
campaigns related to the dispute underway, and numerous parties have urged the
companies to come to a deal before it expires. While FCC Chairman Julius
Genachowski on Dec. 31 joined the call for the companies to come to an
agreement, he did not go so far as to set forth any mandate.

Meantime, another contentious retrans
dispute over an agreement that expires at midnight Dec. 31 was temporarily
resolved in the afternoon of Dec. 31: Sinclair and Mediacom have agreed to an
eight-day interim carriage agreement
.
The deal is at terms set by Sinclair, according to a Mediacom source, and at a
price higher than the current one.

Genachowski, praised the Sinclair-Mediacom
move Thursday, urged the parties to strike a long-term deal, but said the FCC
would not step in to extend carriage past that Jan. 8 date. He also said he had
asked Fox and Time Warner to follow suit and agree to an extension.

The Sinclair extension protects
Mediacom subscribers' access to a bunch of college bowl games, including the
Jan. 5 Orange Bowl and Jan. 7 national championship game. However, the season
premiere of American Idol is slated for Jan. 12, after the extension expires.
The extension affects 24 stations and viewers in 12 states.

In addition, Time Warner Cable on Dec.
30 extended its retrans consent deal with Raycom to Jan. 15.

Raycom President/CEO Paul McTear told B&C
the new deal is nearly finished. The broadcaster and the cable operator will
resume talks early next week, and McTear envisions an agreement free of
vitriol.

"We've always had a pretty good
relationship with Time Warner Cable," says McTear. "I don't think we
would've extended the deadline if we weren't confident we could [work out] a
long-term deal."

The Fox-TWC negotiations concern
retransmission consent deals for Fox-owned TV stations and cable networks that
include FX and Fuel (but not Fox News Channel or Fox Business Channel, which
are part of separate deals) in six markets. There are Fox stations in New York,
Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando, Dallas and Austin. The companies also are
negotiating deals for carriage of regional sports networks and/or some of Fox's
national cable channels in more than two dozen markets. The national cable
networks deals expire at midnight Pacific Time.

As previously reported, the agreement
these two companies come to have benchmark implications across the board for
both the broadcasting and cable sectors (see "Cover Story: Retrans...The
Bloody Battle to Save Broadcast Television
").
Whatever fee Fox secures will set a precedent for retrans negotiations industrywide.

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