Time Warner, Disney battle on one issue, ally on another


Contentious negotiations on the costs system operator Time Warner Cable will pay for pricy programming from Walt Disney Co., notably its ESPN suite of channels, continue to drag on with both sides trying to win the hearts and minds of subscribers. Meanwhile, Disney and Warner Brothers are teaming up to fight online piracy.

The current carriage deal between the two giants expires 9/1/10. In a nutshell, TWC does not wish to pay what WDC thinks it should get for its programming. TWC is telling its subscribers that it is fighting tooth and nail on their behalf against greedy WDC in an effort to hold down their monthly subscription fee. WDC is telling consumers that there are many reasons that TWC charges a high subscription rate, and fair compensation for its programming is not one of the primary drivers.

According to Bloomberg, current negotiations encompass carriage fees for both WDC cable channels and its broadcast television stations.

In the antipiracy effort, Disney and Time Warner’s Warner Brothers unit are trying to prevent content from showing up on various websites without permission, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and are going after an advertising shop, Triton Media, saying it helped pirate websites market their bootlegged wares. This was done allegedly despite the fact that the companies warned Triton off.

Essentially, Triton is being sued in the US District Court of California court for contributing to the delinquency of the pirates – saying that Triton is guilty of copyright infringement since it aided and abetted others in the act.

RBR-TVBR observation: Once again, we find a cable programmer and a cable operator locked in contentious negotiations over the pricing of “must-have” programming, with no call for government intervention. That only happens when cable operators have to deal with broadcasters.

Of course Disney has one foot firmly planted on the cable side, and another just as firmly planted on the broadcast side. In fact, all of the big four networks have interests on both side of the broadcast/cable divide.

With so many mixed motives existing at the top of the entertainment/communications food chain, pure-play broadcast television groups will need to be extremely alert as retransmission and other programming issues move forward. If such companies do not look out for their own interests, there is certainly no guarantee that anyone else will.