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Time Warner Cable, LIN TV resolve carriage fight

Thu, 10/30/2008 - 8:45am
Deborah Yao, AP Business Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Time Warner Cable Inc. on Wednesday reached a deal with LIN TV Corp. for the right to carry the signals of 17 TV stations, ending a nearly month-long standoff that blacked out local channels for viewers across the country (story here).

The nation's second-largest cable operator has agreed to pay undisclosed retransmission fees to LIN TV, which operates local stations affiliated with NBC, CBS, Fox and CW.

The stations covered by the agreement are in Austin, Tex.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbus, Toledo and Dayton, Ohio; Indianapolis, Terre Haute and Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Green Bay, Wis.; Mobile, Ala.; Norfolk, Va., and Springfield, Mass.

All but the Norfolk stations suffered a blackout when talks fell apart.

A dozen of the stations are in Time Warner's markets, the rest are in areas where Bright House Networks is the cable operator. In those cases, Time Warner negotiated on Bright House's behalf.

Retransmission fees have long been a sore spot for cable operators, and LIN TV has had disputes with Charter Communications Inc., the nation's fourth largest cable company, Suddenlink Communications, Cable One Inc. and MetroCast. These were resolved.

LIN TV, which is based in Providence, R.I., and operates 29 TV stations in 17 markets, also has deals with Comcast Corp., DirecTV Group Inc., Dish Network Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.

TV station operators recently have been asking for fees per subscriber instead of, say, agreements to buy advertising. Such deals have substantially increased the fees providers pay.

"Programming expenses are one of our biggest expenses," said Time Warner Cable spokesman Alex Dudley. "We're a retailer, and increases in cost to us do make it down to the consumer."

He said the company didn't want to pay for content viewers get for free over the air.

Time Warner Cable's contract with LIN TV expired on Oct. 2 and viewers lost several local channels the next day. The cable operator then sent out a video tutorial teaching viewers how to hook up television sets to the Internet to watch their favorite TV shows.

Shares of LIN TV rose 5 cents, or 2.4 percent, to end at $2.14. Time Warner Cable lost 84 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $18.28.

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