Sinclair, Time Warner agree to more retransmission overtime


The retransmission wrestling match between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Time Warner Cable is not settled, but the two parties have added over a month of haggling time to the schedule – and say that they have an agreement in principle. Sinclair will continue providing local television stations to TWC subscribers while talks continue.

According to reports, about four million TWC subscribers have carriage of Sinclair stations hanging in the balance.

The new deadline is 2/21/11. Until then, the old contract will remain in force. However, if TWC is correct, the companies will get nowhere near the February deadline – TWC expects that a new deal will be finalized within a week’s time.

According to the Associated Press, Sinclair also came to tentative terms with cable operator Bright House. It was said that a few details needed to be ironed out in a negotiation that involved about 1M subscribers.

Before announcement of the extension, TWC had threatened to import distant broadcast signals to fill in for the lost Sinclair stations had they been pulled from the cable systems, a tactic it used in a recent dispute with Smith stations in Elmira NY and Burlington VT-Plattsburgh NY.

According to Bloomberg, the Sinclair/TWC dispute is one of at least seven major retransmission struggles during 2010 and the very early part of 2011.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is good news for subscribers, but it is also good news for both broadcast and cable interests – by not inflicting collateral damage on consumers in an industry v. industry conflict, the two industries make it that much less likely that there will be unwanted government intervention in the process.

Of course, many believe cable interests have been provoking disputes in an effort to attract government intervention, while broadcasters have been contending that the system works and have argued that free market negotiations are the best way for the two parties to arrive at a fair price for broadcast programming.

Bloomberg seemed to think that seven confrontations were a lot, but it seems to us that is a relatively modest total. And they were all resolved (or in this case, are apparently about to be resolved).

We also can’t help noticing that the majority of them involved either Cablevision or TWC, which begs the question: Is this a problem with the system, or is it a problem with two particular cable companies? Hmmmm…..