Carriage Disputes Drag Into New Year

For most, New Year’s Eve means
noisemakers and champagne toasts. For those
sitting on either side of the distributor and programming
desks, it often means the end of
contracts and 11th-hour negotiations.

This New Year’s was no different, with a
number of contracts set to expire when the
clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2011.

Perhaps the most-volatile situation — and
the one most observers believe could result
in a service disruption — was the retransmission-
consent standoff between Sinclair Broadcast
Group and Time Warner Cable.

Sinclair last week said the MSO, after rejecting
a proposal to pay an average monthly increase
of 10 cents per subscriber, refused to
engage in further negotiations. TWC said discussions
were continuing. Sinclair couldn’t be
reached at press time on Dec. 29 for an update.

Sinclair has 33 stations in Time Warner Cable
markets including Buffalo, N.Y., Cincinnati
and San Antonio, Texas.

About half of the Sinclair stations in the
TWC footprints are The CW and MyNetwork-
TV affiliates, to which the operator has offered
“must-carry” status. Some stations are Fox affiliates, and News Corp. and Time Warner Cable
earlier negotiated a deal to provide Fox
network fare to TWC in the event of an outage
from affiliated stations.

Suddenlink and Viacom remained at odds
over what the cable operator said was the programmer’s
push for a 20% price increase across
its network portfolio, including Nickelodeon,
MTV, TV Land, Comedy Central, Spike TV,
VH1 and CMT.

A Suddenlink spokesman also said the operator
was at odds with Viacom’s inclusion of
Epix in the negotiations. Suddenlink
said its subscriber base has
not requested the movie service,
a joint venture of Paramount,
Lionsgate and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Elsewhere, DirecTV continued to negotiate
with Comcast-owned Golf Channel (see related
story in Content). DirecTV also was
in active retransmission-consent negotiations
for 29 Hearst-owned stations, predominately
CBS and ABC affiliates with Th e CW duopolies
in some markets.

DirecTV claimed its contract with Raycom
stations has been renewed through Dec. 31,
2011, despite messages being disseminated by
the broadcaster to the contrary. Raycom officials couldn’t be reached by press time to clarify
the situation.

A Dish Network spokesman said some progress
has been made in discussions with Chambers
Communications, which pulled ABC
affiliates in Bend, Eugene, Klamath Falls and
Medford, Ore., on Dec. 16.