Retrans scuffle stretches into its second week

The last Tribune-owned outlets went dark on Cablevision systems at midnight Saturday as the retrans blackout stretches into its second week.

Fox affiliate WTIC in Hartford, Conn., and Tribune’s WGN America channel were blacked out as of midnight ET. Those two outlets had remained on Cablevision’s lineup even as it dropped four other Tribune stations, including WPIX-TV New York, just before midnight on Aug. 16.

Cablevision indicated it had a separate extension agreement to keep WTIC and WGN America on its air, though Tribune execs disputed that claim.

Cablevision accused Tribune of having ”pulled the plug” on WTIC. In a statement issued immediately after the station went dark, Cablevision claimed it had agreed to Tribune’s terms for carriage of WTIC, but that the broadcaster was ”illegally tying carriage (of the station) to less-popular channels that they also own.”

Tribune, of course, put the blame for the shutdown on Cablevision and said it was asking for a deal commensurate with similar pacts the Gotham-area cable giant has with other station groups. Like many other broadcast groups, Tribune for the first time is seeking cash compensation for the right to retransmit its local station signals.

”We’re disappointed that Cablevision refused to recognize the value of these channels to our viewers,” said Tribune Broadcasting prexy Nils Larsen. Larsen said the sides remain ”far apart” in the negotiations.

WTIC is an important asset for Tribune in the dispute because the station is a Fox affiliate, with NFL rights and higher-profile primetime programming than the other Tribune CW and MyNetwork affils. However, the bulk of Cablevision’s 3.6 million subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have access to Fox programming through the network’s Gotham OandO, WNYW. The Fox station group had its own retrans standoff with Cablevision nearly two years ago that lasted nearly two weeks.

Tribune has been urging viewers to access its stations the old-fashioned way, with a digital antenna, or by switching to a new provider.

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