Time Warner Disputes with Smith & Sinclair Heat Up

December 29, 2010 by

CENTRAL NEW YORK -- There's still no end in sight to two separate disputes involving Time Warner Cable and the owners of different local television stations.  In Syracuse, Sinclair-owned stations Fox 68 (WSYT) and My43 (WNYS) are set to disappear from Time Warner lineups at 11:59pm on Friday night.  In Utica, Smith Media's NBC affiliate NewsChannel 2 (WKTV) has already been taking away from most Time Warner viewers as of December 15th.

Politicians Try to Help WKTV

UTICA -- Two members of the state legislature, the Mayor of Utica and the Oneida County Executive are getting involved in the ongoing contract dispute between WKTV owner Smith Media and Time Warner Cable.  The four politicians are urging the FCC to "consider taking emergency steps" towards resolving the conflict.

According to a story posted Tuesday on the NBC affiliate's website, lawmakers are asking the FCC to basically force the two companies to resume negotiations every single day, or to submit the dispute for binding arbitration as soon as possible.

State Senator Joe Griffo, Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, Oneida County Exec Anthony Picente and Utica Mayor David Roefaro signed the letter, which was addressed to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Previously, we reported that WKTV, for decades, had allowed local cable companies to carry its signal for free, under the FCC's "must carry" rules.  This time, Smith Media decided to ask for a retransmission fee.  The exact amount hasn't been released by either side, but Time Warner says Smith Media wants too much.

As a result, Time Warner has replaced WKTV with Scranton NBC affiliate WBRE.  In Vermont, TW has replaced Smith's ABC affiliate WVNY with Utica ABC affiliate WUTR.  Both "replacements" are owned by Nexstar Media.  The CEO of Nexstar has threatened legal action against Time Warner, but so far, nothing has changed.

Some Details Released in Sinclair Dispute

SYRACUSE -- Various national reports on the Sinclair dispute indicate talks with Time Warner have broken down over the matter of ten cents.  Among the top points:

  • Sinclair says it wants Time Warner to pay only ten cents more per subscriber per month, over what Sinclair currently collects from the cable giant.
  • Time Warner reportedly only wants to pay for rights to carry Sinclair's "major network" affiliates -- leaving CW andMyNetwork affiliates, but said it would allow those stations on the lineup for free via "must carry" rules.
  • Fox network has reportedly offered cable companies access to a "direct" network feed.  Fox says cable companies could carry this "cooling-off" feed for up to a year, so viewers aren't left without Fox programming as cable companies continue to negotiate with local affiliates.

Time Warner has maintained that the vast majority of cable/broadcaster negotiations are completed without any dispute or media coverage.  The cable giant has contended that it shouldn't have to pay more for stations that can be viewed over-the-air for free, because any fee increase would have to be passed along to customers.  Broadcasters argue they deserve a cut of the profits Time Warner makes on subscriber fees because network programming still draws bigger ratings than cable offerings.


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