The deadline came without agreement on a new retransmission consent agreement, so 15 LIN TV stations in 11 markets disappeared Friday from Time Warner Cable systems and the Bright House systems it manages. Talks were said to be continuing through the weekend, but there was no resolution yesterday. As a result, hometown fans of the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills did not have cable carriage of yesterday’s games on CBS and likewise for the Green Bay Packers on Fox.
LIN had said in mid September that it appeared unlikely it would reach a new agreement with Time Warner Cable by the time its previous deal expired at midnight on October 2nd. Executives of LIN complained that while the TV company had sent its proposal to the cable MSO months ago, Time Warner Cable never responded with its own offer until a day before the deadline. With the two sides unable to agree on a new pact, LIN refused the cable company’s request for a temporary extension and the plug was pulled on cable carriage of LIN’s stations. The dispute affects LIN carriage on Time Warner Cable systems in Austin; Buffalo; Columbus; Dayton; Ft. Wayne; Green Bay; Indianapolis; Mobile; Springfield, MA; Terre Haute and Toledo.
One US Senator has jumped into the dispute. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent the two companies a letter urging them to come to terms for the benefit of viewers in the Buffalo area. "From watching our beloved Buffalo Bills to the evening news to top-rated shows, Channel 4 and 23 mean a lot to Buffalonians. With the Bills going for a 5-0 record this weekend; there is no time to spare in getting an agreement nailed down. I am writing to these companies in hope that they will come to a timely resolution and ensure that Buffalo’s Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch the channels they want,” Schumer said shortly before WIVB-TV (CBS) and WNLO-TV (CW) disappeared from Time Warner Cable systems in New York.
With LIN TV’s WISH-TV (CBS) Indianapolis missing from Bright House in Central Indiana, the cable company turned to radio for yesterday’s broadcast of the NFL football game pitting the Indianapolis Colts against the Houston Texans. The cable company put Emmis’ WLHK-FM “Hank FM” on channel two so cable subscribers would at least have audio of the game.
Time Warner Cable handed out free rabbit ears antennas to subscribers who wanted them and even offered to send installers – although it was doubtful that many folks could have scheduled appointments before yesterday’s NFL games. LIN, meanwhile, pitched alternatives to cable for viewers deprived of its stations. The company has a deal with Dish Network whereby new subscribers to the satellite TV service in the Austin, Buffalo, Columbus, Dayton, Ft. Wayne, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Mobile, Terre Haute and Toledo markets will receive a $50 incentive to switch to Dish Network.
RBR/TVBR observation: Angry subscribers don’t know whom to blame, but they are plenty angry. Newspapers in the various markets have posted online comments from readers – some criticizing Time Warner Cable, some criticizing LIN and many just upset about the whole situation. “A pox on both their houses,” said one comment on the website of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Many other broadcasters are watching this standoff closely because they, too, have to negotiate new retransmission consent agreements with Time Warner Cable by the end of this year. While virtually all other MSOs have finally come to the realization that their free lunch courtesy of broadcasters is over, the nation’s #2 cable operator somehow thinks it can hold onto the past. Not gonna happen.