Deadline Passes: WKTV Pulled from Time Warner Lineups

December 15, 2010 by

Thursday Update: Time Warner Piping in WBRE from Scranton

Updated 12/16 at 5:00pm - With no agreement over retransmission fees by 11:59pm Wednesday, NBC affiliate WKTV has been removed from certain Time Warner Cable lineups, including the system covering Utica and its immediate suburbs.   WKTV hopes viewers will pressure the cable company into buckling.  But Time Warner surprised us today: NBC fans aren't being deprived of network programming, as the cable giant replaces WKTV with an out-of-state NBC affiliate.

Map from shows which Time Warner systems lost WKTV and which still carry the Utica NBC affiliate.
Map from shows which Time Warner systems lost WKTV and which still carry the Utica NBC affiliate.

Thursday morning story regarding the dispute on WKTV's website explains the outage, with a quote from GM/VP Vic Vetters, saying "the reason underneath is if you have something of value, you fight for it and believe that's how we view this. We believe WKTV is something of value."

Added 5:00pm- In a newer story on WKTV's website, the station says today is "more a day of regrouping for both sides," though there's still no indication as to when a resolution might get WKTV back on cable in the affected areas, seen in red in the WKTV map at right.  The station also shared a couple of viewer comments -- one from a woman frustrated that a Scranton station can't tell if her son has school or a snow day; another from a man who said "loss of WKTV will not be that bad" since Time Warner continues to provide NBC programming in some form.

A special "Smith Media" page on Time Warner's Get Tough or Roll Over website lists exactly where WKTV has been blacked out, and it describes any alternatives available to viewers in those areas.

  • Rome, Oneida, Boonville, Hamilton: WKTV remains on the lineup -- the deal between Smith Media and Time Warner for these systems runs through 2011.
  • Ilion: Same as above (different from earlier reports that all of Herkimer County would lose WKTV).
  • Canajoharie: WKTV is blacked out here, but the lineup already included NBC affiliate WNYT from Albany, which remains viewable on the lineup.
  • Forestport: WKTV is blacked out here, but the lineup already included NBC affiliate WSTM from Syracuse, which remains viewable on the lineup.
  • Utica, Oneonta, New Berlin: Time Warner says it has replaced WKTV with the WBRE, the NBC affiliate from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA.
  • In all cases, Time Warner notes that viewers can still see WKTV over-the-air with an antenna, many of WKTV's news stories are available through its website, and Time Warner offers Utica-area news on its own 24/7 regional cable news channel, YNN.

On WKTV's website, a prominent banner displays a toll-free number viewers can call to sign up for Dish Network satellite service.

Coverage Elsewhere

Earlier Coverage, Wednesday 11:05pm

Updated 11:05pm - UTICA -- With less than an hour until the deadline for a renewed transmission agreement between Time Warner Cable and Smith Media LLC, it appears that NBC affiliate WKTV and sister station CW11 will be disappearing from cable lineups throughout the Mohawk Valley at 11:59pm.

Here at HQ in Syracuse, we're looking at an early wake-up to clear tonight's several inches of snow out of the driveway  -- so this story is being "put to bed" for now, as your editor prepares to put himself to bed.  As of this writing, WKTV's website still has a large red banner across the homepage, reading, "GET THE FACTS HERE: TIME WARNER CABLE MAY STOP CARRYING WKTV AT MIDNIGHT."

According to earlier reports, the deal which expires tonight only involves Time Warner systems within the Utica TV market, which includes eastern Oneida County, along with Herkimer and Otsego Counties.  Viewers who use Time Warner Cable in western Oneida County (including Rome), which is actually considered to be within the Syracuse TV market, will still be able to watch WKTV on cable in the morning.

Even if Time Warner has the ability to pull WKTV off the western systems as a tactical move, viewers in that area can get NBC programming through Syracuse affiliate WSTM, which is also on the lineup.  But FCC rules forbid Time Warner from bringing WSTM or any other NBC affiliate into systems located east of the Syracuse/Utica market border.

Earlier Coverage, Wednesday, 5:00pm

UTICA -- We first told you about this last month: if WKTV and Time Warner don't renew their retransmission agreement by 11:59pm tonight, the cable company will be forced to pull the NBC affiliate off its lineups within the Utica television market. As of 5:00pm, there's still no deal, and with efforts like a non-stop crawl across the screen, WKTV is pulling out all the stops to get viewers on its side.

As reported earlier, the bottom line is money. FCC regulations say local full-power broadcast TV stations have two options when it comes to cable companies: they can demand their signals be carried, for free; or they can demand payment of a "retransmission fee" from the cable company, but if cable company refuses to pay, they must pull the station off the lineup.

According to earlier reports, WKTV allowed the cable company to carry its programming for free for many years. (Longtime residents may remember that the original predecessor to Time Warner -- Harron Cable -- actually owned WKTV at one point, until the FCC banned crossownership between stations and cable companies. Drive by WKTV's plant on Smith Hill, and you'll notice a big sign on the building dedicating the studio to Paul F. Harron, who died in 2005.)

But, now, Smith Media LLC, the parent company of WKTV and CW-11, says its demanding retransmission fees to help recoup some of the investment the stations have made in upgrading their physical plants and newsgathering operations. Also included in the dispute are two Smith Media stations serving the Burlington/Plattsburgh market, Fox affiliate WFFF and ABC affiliate WVNY.

On WKTV's side: viewers would still be able to view WKTV over-the-air with an antenna or via satellite. And, if Time Warner pulls WKTV off the lineup, FCC rules forbid the cable company from importing another NBC affiliate from say, Syracuse or Albany. Also on WKTV's side: Utica mayor David Roefaro, who, according to a news story on WKTV's website, is "worried" about WKTV being pulled off the lineup.

Time Warner argues, on it's special "Get Tough or Roll Over" website, that Smith Media is demanding a price that's higher than what it feels is fair, and that, as a result, the cable company would have to pass those costs along to customers by hiking cable subscription rates. As usual for these types of negotiations, Time Warner won't say how much it's willing to pay and Smith won't say how much it's demanding.

We'll be keeping an eye on the developments (well, at least as long as we can stay awake tonight) and updating the story as needed.


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2 comments on “Deadline Passes: WKTV Pulled from Time Warner Lineups”

  1. I might also add... WKTV also simulcasts its noon and evening newscasts on WADR/WUTQ/B95.5. So it's not like people without a TV antenna are out of luck-- the same local news is still available on radio.

  2. In new news, Nexstar has sent cease-and-desist letters to TWC for re-transmitting their stations, according to TVNewsCheck and Smith Media.

    Also of note is that Smith Media is having the same issue with their stations in Burlington, VT. Time Warner chose to replace WVNY (an abc affiliate) up there with WUTR of all things!


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