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A contract fight between Time Warner Cable and station owner Lin TV has knocked network affiliate stations off the cable dial in 11 markets.

The dispute between Lin and Time Warner came to a head Friday, when the stations’ signals were yanked from Time Warner systems in markets including Indianapolis; Green Bay, Wis.; Columbus, Ohio; and Buffalo, N.Y.

That meant there was no easy access to Sunday football games and other network programming for Time Warner subscribers in big pigskin markets like Green Bay, where Lin owns the Fox affil, and in Buffalo, where Lin owns the CBS affil.

Time Warner and Lin are sparring over the terms of a new retransmission consent deal, which local cable system operators must have in order to feature local TV stations as part of their channel lineup. Time Warner has balked at Lin’s request for a carriage fee of around 20¢ per subscriber in the affected market areas.

In its past deals with Time Warner, Lin had not received any coin for its signal, but in recent years, local stations have taken a more aggressive stand in demanding carriage fees from local cable operators. Scott Blumenthal, Lin exec veep of TV, notes that other cable ops in other Lin markets, telco providers Verizon and AT&T and satcasters DirecTV and Dish Network have cut deals with the station group.

As the dispute threatened to stretch into a second weekend, Time Warner said Wednesday that it is continuing to negotiate with Lin. A spokeswoman for the cabler said it had also taken the step of handing out free antennas to customers in the affected markets and highlighting online alternatives for viewing broadcast programming.

The fight between Lin and Time Warner is likely to be a preview of more battles to come next year, as a slew of local stations’ retransmission consent deals are set to expire at the end of 2008.