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NAB Says TWC Numbers Tell Retrans Story

The National Association of Broadcasters took aim at Time Warner Cable's fourth quarter earnings Friday in the ongoing battle between the industries over retransmission consent payments.

TWC beat analyst estimates in recording net income, up 44%, and on cash flow, up 9%.

"Given that Time Warner Cable just announced a quarterly net income increase of 44% and annual profits of $1.3 billion, it's time for pay TV's poster child for skyrocketing rates to come clean on retransmission consent," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Time Warner and its front group the American Television Alliance claims that broadcast retransmission consent fees are responsible for escalating cable rates. That claim is false.

The fact is that local TV station carriage fees account for less than 1 percent of the cost of a monthly cable bill. It's laughable to suggest that broadcasters are responsible for higher cable rates."

"We're surprised that NAB wants to engage in a discussion about corporate financial results at a time when executives of its member companies have publicly bragged that earnings will be driven by dramatic increases in retransmission consent fees," said the American Television Alliance in a statement. "As one broadcast network executive said last year about retrans fees, "the sky's the limit."

Broadcasters have been seeking cash for retrans, pointing out the popularity and ratings power of TV stations in cable network lineups. Cable operators have been countering that stations are asking too much, and leaving consumers to foot the bill.

The FCC has proposed some changes to its retrans oversight regime, but has yet to take any action. NAB thinks the system is working fine, while cable and satellite operators say it is skewed in favor of broadcasters and are seeking major changes including standstills and arbitration during impasses.