Cable, network providers clash over service agreements
By LPR Staff
Lockhart area cable customers may have recently noticed the disappearance of NBC programming from their basic cable lineup. At midnight on Friday, Oct. 3 Austin’s NBC affiliate, KXAN, was removed from the Time Warner Cable lineup in the Austin market.
The reason for the end of KXAN broadcasts on Time Warner is a point
of contention for both the cable giant and for LIN Television, the parent company of KXAN. For weeks, both have engaged in marketing blitzes designed to cast doubt, if not blame, on the other.
On their website, KXAN announces boldly “Time Warner has let you down.” Time Warner, on the other hand, states that “KXAN has pulled it’s signal” and suggests the local station is offering their viewers misleading information.
The dispute stems from the expiration of a rebroadcasting agreement between LIN’s corporate headquarters and the Time Warner cable conglomerate. Austin-area customers, as with other viewers across the nation, are merely caught in the crossfire.
Cable providers are required by law to have rebroadcasting agreements with local network providers. As the current agreement came to an end in early October, LIN requested that Time Warner provide compensation for the rebroadcasting agreement – a request that, in the past had not been made by local broadcasting companies, who gain increased exposure from inclusion in cable lineups.
According to a news release from LIN, who owns stations that are rebroadcast by Time Warner companies in 15 markets, the company was asking for “less than 30 cents per subscriber per month.”
It is unclear, however, whether LIN’s payment proposal meant “30 cents per subscriber per month” in only those Time Warner markets which carry LIN stations, or for all of Time Warner’s subscribers. Of Time Warner’s 31 million subscribers, only about 2.7 million are in LIN markets.
Unable to reach an agreement on compensation by the Oct. 2 expiration date of the contract, Time Warner was forced to drop LIN programming in the affected markets.
Representatives from LIN did not return calls seeking clarification on the issue.
On the other hand, Time Warner may also bear some of the responsibility for the breakdown. While cable and other providers do receive the broadcast signal for free, some critics argue that providers already charge their customers to rebroadcast the free programming. It is only fair, some say, for Time Warner to share those profits with the companies whose free signals they benefit from.
KXAN viewers that do not use Time Warner Cable, or those who receive the signal through an antenna, should not be affected by the termination of the signal, which could deprive Time Warner customers of such viewing choices as The Today Show, 30 Rock, E/R and, perhaps more importantly to some, Sunday Night Football.
Both companies claim to be continuing negotiation attempts, in the hopes KXAN can be returned to Time Warner Austin’s lineup. However, both are equally quick to encourage viewers to explore other avenues for their viewing, including changing service providers, installing antennas or “rabbit ears,” or watching NBC programming online.