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Retrans spat may have led to converter coupon requests

Thu, 10/09/2008 - 8:45am
Brian Santo

The retransmission consent spat between Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks on the one hand, and LIN TV on the other, may have produced an unexpected result: a noticeable increase in requests for converter coupons.

The American Cable Association (ACA) immediately chimed in, pointing out that this was precisely the kind of consumer confusion it’s been warning about as it’s been seeking a period leading up to the digital transition, and for a while after, during which retrans negotiations would be suspended.

LIN TV blacked out 15 of its stations in 11 markets this past week. There was a subsequent uptick in DTV coupon requests in three of those markets (Austin; Ft. Wayne, Ind.; and Springfield, Mass.), according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

“News that LIN TV’s decision to pull stations from as many as 2.7 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in 11 markets may be causing a run on DTV coupons is troubling,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka. 

“But it is even more disconcerting to think that many of these requests are coming from customers who do not need converters and who otherwise would not have requested these coupons. LIN TV’s decision to pull its signals is not only causing confusion, but it’s also eating up limited resources for the DTV coupon program.”

In the past, the argument was about whether to start the so-called quiet period in February or January.

Polka is now urging FCC Chairman Martin to institute a quiet period immediately.

“In light of the NTIA’s comments, the issue should no longer be whether the quiet period should begin February 4, January 15, or December 15, but whether it should be implemented immediately, and certainly no later than December 15, to reduce further confusion and lessen the strain on the NTIA program,” Polka said. “Every day we are not moving forward to establish a quiet period, we’re increasing the chance of problems as we approach the transition. Disruptions in service, regardless of the cause, appear to cause a run on the governments’ coupon program, which according to some is already over strained, and probably on converter boxes, too. Too much time and money has been dedicated to ensuring a successful transition to run that risk.”

On Oct. 2, LIN TV pulled its signals from Time Warner Cable and Bright House systems in Austin, Texas; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Ft. Wayne, Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Ind.; Green Bay, Wis.; Mobile, Ala.; and Springfield, Mass. (story here).

More Broadband Direct:

• Retrans spat may have led to converter coupon requests

• FCC vote will muddy must-carry situation

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• Broadband Briefs for 10/09/08

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