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Time Warner Cable Faces Broadcast Blackout in 14 Markets

Cable operator says LIN TV is seeking 50% hike in retrans fees, as current pact expires May 31

LIN Television is looking to extract more coin from Time Warner Cable, telling viewers its local broadcast stations in 14 markets will be pulled from TWC and Bright House Networks if the companies cannot reach a retransmission-consent deal by next Friday, May 31.

According to Time Warner Cable, the broadcaster is seeking an increase of more than 50% in retrans fees. LIN didn’t specify what what rate increase it is asking for.

“LIN is demanding a more than 50% increase — after receiving a colossal increase just two years ago — to continue carrying the same programming that they deliver over the air for free,” Time Warner Cable spokesman Jon Gary Herrera said. “We continue to take a stand against unreasonable fee increases by local broadcast TV stations.” Herrera confirmed TWC is continuing discussions with LIN.

In response, a LIN spokeswoman said, “The rates we are asking for are reasonable and less than what Time Warner pays for many of its cable networks with far lower ratings.”

LIN’s current agreements with Time Warner Cable and Bright House — which has an arrangement with the larger MSO that lets it piggyback on programming deals — expire May 31 at 5 p.m. ET.

“We are working hard to reach a new agreement with Time Warner/Bright House Networks,” LIN said in a statement. “However, we feel it is our duty to keep our viewers informed when a contract deadline approaches and a new agreement has not yet been reached. If we do not reach an agreement, by law, Time Warner/Bright House Networks cannot carry our signal on its cable systems.”

LIN noted that if its TV stations go dark on the two cable operators, viewers can continue to access local TV via over-the-air via antenna or by switching to an alternative pay-TV provider such as AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS, DirecTV or Dish Network.

The broadcaster, which has a history of contentious retrans negotiations with pay TV operators, said that Time Warner Cable “has yet to recognize the fair value of our programming.” TWC, meanwhile, has been involved in at least three public retrans fights over the past 12 months.

In a previous dispute in the fall of 2008, LIN’s TV stations went dark on Time Warner Cable lineups for 25 days.

For Time Warner Cable, the current impasse threatens to black out 24 TV stations in the 14 markets: Birmingham, Ala. (WIAT – CBS); Mobile, Ala. (WALA – Fox and WFNA – CW); Savannah, Ga. (WJCL – ABC); Honolulu (KHON – Fox and CW); Terre Haute, Ind. (WTHI – CBS); Fort Wayne, Ind. (WANE – CBS); Indianapolis (WISH – CBS and WNDY – MyNetworkTV); Springfield, Mass. (WWLP – NBC and WFXQ – NBC); Buffalo, N.Y. (WIVB – CBS and WNLO – CW); Dayton, Ohio (WDTN – NBC and WBDT – CW); Youngstown, Ohio (WKBN – CBS and WYFX – Fox); Austin, Texas (KXAN – NBC, KNVA – CW and KBVO – MyNetworkTV); Norfolk, Va. (WAVY – NBC and WVBT – Fox); and Green Bay, Wisc. (WLUK – Fox and WCWF – CW).

Nationwide, LIN operates or services 43 TV stations in 23 U.S. markets. The company’s retrans revenue and growth in digital businesses is offsetting declines in advertising, LIN topper Vincent Sadusky said in announcing first-quarter results this month.

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