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Charter/LIN TV Retrans Talks Break Down

The year’s first major retransmission consent battle appears to be underway, after broadcaster LIN TV said negotiations with Charter Communications have broken down.

LIN, which owns about 11 stations in seven markets in Charter territory—in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Green Bay, Wis.; Hartford-New Haven, Conn.; Springfield, Mass.; Dayton and Toledo, Ohio; and Providence, R.I.—said that its current deal with Charter is scheduled to expire on June 30.

In a statement, LIN said that its negotiations with Charter “appear unlikely to result in a retransmission consent agreement. As a result, LIN TV expects Charter to discontinue carriage of its television stations when the current contract expires.”

The stations include three NBC affiliates, two ABC stations, one CBS station, three Fox stations and two MyNetwork TV affiliates. According to Wachovia Securities broadcast TV analyst Marci Ryvicker, the stations affected pass about 4 million total households, including 2.8 million cable homes and 760,000 satellite TV homes.

In a research report Ryvicker estimated that less than 1 million homes are Charter subscribers, adding that after talking to LIN executives she learned the dispute is mainly over money—LIN believes its signal is worth more than Charter is willing to pay and is willing to take a short-term hit rather than leave money on the table in a long-term agreement.

“We think that timing is both favorable and unfavorable to [LIN]—favorable in the sense that the Olympics are coming up and three of the stations in this dispute are NBC affiliates (therefore the cable subs affected may put pressure on Charter), and unfavorable in the sense that it is the summer and most primetime shows are in re-runs (therefore probably not much protest surrounding non-NBC affiliates),” Ryvicker wrote.

In the event that the channels do go dark on the Charter systems, LIN has an agreement with Dish Network whereby the satellite TV company will offer a $50 incentive for a limited time to customers in the Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Hartford-New Haven, and Providence who switch to the satellite service. 

Charter said in a statement that it is in active negotiations with LIN and that it successfully negotiates retrans deals with other broadcasters on a regular basis and will work to do the same with LIN.

“Charter is focused on providing value to our customers and we negotiate with their best interests in mind,” Charter said in a statement. We want to assure our customers that it is not Charter’s intention to discontinue carrying these stations in our lineup.”