If any progress is being made toward a new retransmission rights agreement between News Corporation and Time Warner Cable (TWC), it’s certainly being kept under wraps. Meanwhile, both are maintaining a tough public stance as they head toward midnight Thursday, when all Fox cable networks and O&O TV stations could be pulled from TWC and Bright House cable systems.
The dueling websites put up by the opposing sides tell a very different side of the issues.
Although News Corporation has always gotten paid for its cable networks, the keepfoxon.com website offers pretty much the same arguments we’ve heard in past retrans standoffs by Nexstar, Sinclair and other pure-play TV station companies when it comes to why cable systems should have to pay retrans.
“The broadcast television business is suffering because broadcast networks are competing on an uneven playing field with cable networks. Cable networks have two streams of revenue: advertising and fees paid by distributors. Broadcasters like FOX have the single stream of advertising. This has allowed cable networks like ESPN to get a leg up to purchase the rights to content like Monday Night Football and The BCS Championship Series – which means that tens of millions of Americans who can’t afford or choose not to subscribe to cable or satellite miss this event programming. The future of free, over-the-air broadcast programming requires broadcasters to compete on a level playing field – which means getting fair value compensation from cable companies like Time Warner Cable,” News Corp. says on the website.
News Corp. also notes that TWC has made a profitable business, in part from delivering broadcast TV networks, with 2009 free cash flow expected to be nearly $2 billion. “It can surely afford to fairly compensate broadcasters for that content without raising rates,” News Corp./Fox said in answer to whether retrans would force TWC to raise rates for customers.
Over at rolloverorgettough.com, TWC insists that it holds the moral high ground.
“With TV networks like Fox demanding price increases as high as 300%, Time Warner Cable asked our customers for their feedback – and we heard you loud and clear.
More than 500,000 unique visitors have had a chance to speak out. And the overwhelming response has been ‘Get Tough.’ So that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We continue to encourage all our customers to log-on and get involved.
With contracts ending in a few short days, TV networks like Fox still want massive price increases or they’ll pull the plug on their programs. We think that’s unfair – and we’re glad our customers agree,” the TWC website states.
According to Fox, though, that 300% figure must be about someone else.
“By saying that ‘some TV networks’ have demanded up to 300% more from the cable company, Time Warner Cable wants you to believe that it is FOX that has asked for these increases. Time Warner must be referring to one of their other negotiations, because 300% is off by a large multiple,” Fox insisted on its website.
So, the clock ticks down to New Year’s Eve.
RBR-TVBR observation: There have been such showdowns before, but nothing on this scale. Some very large markets are going to be missing college bowl games on New Year’s Day if this isn’t resolved. Somebody has to blink eventually, but it is conceivable that the movement would only come after huge customer outcry over losing some of the most-watched channels on TWC systems.