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LIN TV pulls channels from Time Warner Cable

LIN TV’s retransmission negotiations with Time Warner Cable have failed, and the cable operator no longer has the right to carry the broadcaster’s programming in 11 markets nationwide, the broadcast group said Oct. 3.

LIN TV has pulled 15 of its stations from Time Warner Cable systems. In a letter to Time Warner Cable subscribers on its Web site, the broadcaster said it was disappointed with the unsuccessful negotiations with the cable operator, particularly since it had completed deals “with every major cable, satellite and telecommunication company” that had recognized “our fair market value.” According to LIN TV, negotiations will continue with Time Warner, but the broadcast group is unable to predict if or when an agreement will be reached.

Viewers are beginning to feel the impact of the impasse. For example, the removal of LIN TV’s WIVB-TV (Channel 4) and WNLO (Channel 23) in the Buffalo, NY, area prompted the local Time Warner Cable service to give its subscribers free rabbit ear antennas for off-air reception, according to an Oct. 5 report in “The Buffalo News.”

Thousands of people stood in long lines Oct. 4 to take advantage of the offer so they could receive over-the-air coverage of the Oct. 5 Buffalo Bills vs. the Arizona Cardinals game in Glendale, AZ, the report said. Time Warner says the situation affects about 330,000 viewers in western New York.

American Cable Association president and CEO Matthew Polka released a statement Oct. 3 saying the failure of LIN TV and Time Warner to reach a retransmission agreement is consistent with “abusive negotiating tactics” regularly employed by broadcasters to “force cable operators to pay higher fees.”

Polka said in the statement that “it is cable customers and small cable operators that pay the highest price for the scorched-earth strategy of pulling channels to leverage higher retransmission rates.”

In its online letter to Time Warner Cable customers, LIN TV explained to viewers that they have other options to receive its stations, including from direct-to-home satellite provider DISH, Verizon FiOS TV and AT&T’s Advanced TV.

LIN TV also reminded them of the over-the-air reception option. “Don’t forget, you can always use an antenna,” the letter said. “Our stations broadcast in both standard analog format and in digital HDTV format.”