UTICA-ROME -- We already told you about the battle Time Warner is facing with Sinclair-owned Syracuse TV stations WSYT and WNYS. Now, the cable giant is reportedly in a dispute that could potentially result in Utica NBC affiliate WKTV being taken off the lineup.
According to the Utica Observer-Dispatch, the retransmission consent contract currently in place between WKTV parent Smith Media LLC and Time Warner is set to expire on December 15. The paper explains that, if an agreement is not reached, WKTV could be taken off the lineup -- but only for viewers in Utica, eastern Oneida County and Herkimer and Otsego Counties.
WKTV is also carried on Time Warner's Rome/Oneida/Sylvan Beach lineup, but that area is apparently under a different contract. That division might be traced back to cable's earlier days, when NewChannels Cable owned the systems in the Rome area, but Harron Cable (and later Adelphia) owned the system in Utica before Time Warner eventually acquired it.
FCC rules say full-power broadcast TV stations can either "demand" to be carried by cable companies, an option in which the cable company has to comply -- or they can demand a retransmission fee, at the risk of being dropped from cable if the cable company refuses to pay.
The Utica O-D report says WKTV has never asked Time Warner for any fees before, but is now demanding a fee. GM Vic Vetters told the newspaper WKTV needs the additional revenue "to continue to make these investments," though there was no explanation as to the specific investments being made in the station. Several readers commenting on the story complained that WKTV still lacks "true" HD programming.
Just like with the Time Warner/Sinclair dispute, both sides have their own arguments as to why they feel their own side is right: WKTV in asking Time Warner to share a portion of its subscriber revenue, and Time Warner in claiming WKTV is demanding too much money.
The Sinclair contract involving 2 Syracuse stations expires December 31, but the existing deal with WKTV ends December 15.