Cable firm vows bowl fans won’t miss out
Still no deal between Sinclair, Time Warner
Time Warner Cable Inc. vowed yesterday to provide its cable customers with network TV stations from other cities if it loses the rights to carry local stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. past a midnight deadline for a new contract.
The arrangement means that viewers should get access to major network programming — including today’s Outback Bowl game on ABC between the Florida Gators and the Penn State Nittany Lions — if Sinclair pulls its signals once the deadline passed. Viewers would lose local programs, such as the local news. Syndicated shows such as “Seinfeld’’ could move to a different time.
The tactic could undercut local broadcast companies in these types of negotiations in the future.
Hours before the deadline, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks still had no deal to carry Sinclair stations starting today. The dispute had threatened to prevent cable customers in Sinclair markets around the country from seeing the Outback Bowl. Time Warner has about 4 million customers who get local broadcast stations owned by Sinclair, and Bright House has a smaller but unknown number.
Time Warner spokeswoman Maureen Huff said the companies were still negotiating yesterday, but that the cable company would import broadcast signals from other cities to replace Sinclair stations so local customers wouldn’t miss their network programming from NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox.
Huff said even if the dispute with Sinclair drags on, Time Warner customers in Sinclair cities would still see all NFL playoff games, the Super Bowl and “most if not all’’ would see the full assortment of college football bowls.
Time Warner has not said which stations it will borrow signals from.
Time Warner has been doing that in upstate New York because of a similar dispute with Smith Media. Viewers get the network evening shows but see out-of-market local newscasts and syndicated fare.
Bright House later said it, too, would carry feeds from other cities if the dispute with Sinclair remained unresolved.
The cable TV companies’ end run around Sinclair is the latest twist in a long-running struggle between TV broadcasters and the cable and satellite operators that carry their signals into customers’ homes.
Disputes between broadcasters and the cable and satellite operators are cropping up more often.
Broadcast companies used to let cable providers carry their channels for free while making their money selling advertising time.
But the recession caused some advertisers to cut spending, and the broadcasters are trying to charge cable operators higher fees to carry their programming.