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Hearst TV-Time Warner carriage dispute ‘ripe’ for settlement, says Hearst CEO

Hearst Television this week presented Time Warner Cable with an offer aimed at overcoming an impasse in negotiations on retransmission fees.

In a statement released July 18, Hearst said it presented Time Warner the previous day with a proposal that was within 5 percent of the cable company’s offer to Hearst on July 9.

The cable operator discontinued carrying Hearst stations in a dozen markets, when the parties failed to reach a new carriage agreement. The previous agreement expired on June 30; however, the broadcaster granted a temporary extension to prevent service disruption over the Fourth of July week.

“We’re disappointed to say that Time Warner Cable is refusing to participate in a negotiating process that has enabled us to conclude more than 150 agreements, without service interruptions, in recent months,” said David Barrett, president and CEO of Hearst Television.

Barrett said Time Warner was leading a lobbying effort aimed at rolling back the 1992 Cable Act. The cable company “has decided to hold its subscribers hostage in the hope that it can pressure Congress to intervene,” Barrett said.

In a letter from Time Warner to subscribers, the cable company said Hearst Television demanded a “nearly 300 percent increase” in carriage fees. “That kind of outrageous increase is unfair to our customers and unsustainable for our business,” the letter said.

“We believe broadcaster blackouts are wrong,” it said. “Despite Hearst’s blackout, we stand ready to continue negotiations and are hopeful that the channel will be returned to the lineup shortly.”

Hearst’s latest offer makes the dispute “ripe for settlement -today,” said Barrett.

Markets affected include: Omaha, NE; Honolulu; Kansas City, MO and KS; Boston (Manchester, NH); Orlando; Louisville, KY; Cincinnati; Tampa, FL; Portland, ME; Burlington, VT-Plattsburgh, NY; Pittsburgh; Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.