In case any of you reading this haven’t heard, LIN Television‘s retransmission contract with Time Warner Cable has expired as of October 2nd around midnight in the morning. This effectively terminated broadcast of fifteen local stations in eleven different television markets stretching from Texas to New York. The underlying problem appears to be that LIN wishes to charge Time Warner to carry their signal, at least from the information that is being presented about the negotiations.
I am not an avid fan of either CBS or the WB (WIVB & WNLO, the stations that were lost from the Buffalo/Niagara Falls market) stations, so I’m not terribly concerned about the brunt of their programming. However, I am disappointed that they went to the effort to enforce the non-duplication rights to the Bills’ football games, preventing Time Warner from broadcasting last Sunday’s game against Arizona from an affiliate station in Rochester, NY. LIN’s consolation to it’s viewers of those stations has been composed of no more than calling Time Warner to complain and push for an agreement, using terrestrial antennas to acquire over-the-air broadcasts, or to switch to another service. Time Warner went to the trouble of offering free antennae and issuing credits for purchasing antennae in order to help accommodate its customers (especially for the Sunday football game), leading me to further think Time Warner gives a damn about its customer base while not succumbing to this marketing ploy.
Take into consideration the following (which I’m sure has been proposed by many others…I’m hardly the first):
Taken together, Time Warner really is doing the local station a favor by broadcasting them for free. If the station(s) is/are really in high enough demand, then some concern might be warranted for actually paying for the signal(s) in order to keep subscribers on the cable service. However, this would eventually trickle down onto the consumer either directly or indirectly through cable costs.
If I were to switch to satellite, is it safe to expect they’re already paying to retransmit these signals? If not, what is to say that down the road they do not impose the same kind of restriction on the satellite markets, just screwing customers again? Information doesn’t appear to be readily available to even tell if these networks are that providing LIN’s signals are paying them in order to do so.
And what about the advertisers? Are they going to be compensated for loss of advertising volume by this whole incident? Who knows!
Must-carry was a worthwhile endeavor by the FCC in my personal opinion. Giving local stations the option to deny retransmission without their consent only complicated the issue with the ability to negotiate contracts. Regardless, it does seem like a justifiable option if the market really demands a station that extensively.
I do not feel this is the case here. LIN sounds like their just pushing for a larger revenue stream by now demanding higher retransmission charges, regardless of whether that will be pushed onto the consumer base or not. Their steadfast opinion that Time Warner is at fault seems difficult to swallow in the face of the duplication block against Time Warner, and the effort Time Warner has made to maintain consumer viewing of these stations.
LIN Television, I really hope your ratings suffer enough to hurt your revenue stream to make this entire debacle economically unfavorable, killing that additional revenue you were hoping to make. It might make you reconsider your options before thinking this is the economically feasible choice to do.