Some cable channels could go 'black,' Time Warner warns

Posted November 25, 2009

Time Warner Cable is making a preemptive strike against broadcasters and other programmers whose contracts with the nation’s No. 2 cable provider expire at year’s end.

Faced with the prospect that some channels and programs could go “black” – off the network – Time Warner unveiled a marketing campaign Wednesday that seeks customer input about the negotiations.

Should Time Warner roll over or get tough? So asks the ad campaign on TV and in newspapers as well as a Web site.

The negotiations could have an impact for local viewers.

Two TV stations in the Triangle could be affected in the “get tough” debate – WLFL and WRDC. Both are owned by Sinclair Broadcasting. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sinclair is one of the broadcasters whose agreement with Time Warner expires at year’s end.

Capitol Broadcasting’s two Triangle-area stations (WRAL and FOX50) won’t be impacted by the dispute since its agreement doesn’t expire until next June, according to WRAL General Manager Steve Hammel.

“We have not begun our negotiations with Time Warner, but we have many years of very good partnership with them,” Hammel said. “I am very confident our negotiations will be successful.”

Time Warner’s campaign says programmers are making “unfair price demands.”

“Some programmers and stations want increases of up to 300 percent,” said Melissa Buscher, director of media relations for Time Warner in the Carolinas.

“Advertising revenues are in a slump,” she added, “and some programmers are looking to cable to make up the shortfall."

Cable companies pay programmers fees to carry programs. If no agreement is reached, Buscher said the content providers “have the option to go black.” However, she said Time Warner would prefer to carry programs even as negotiations continue.

Time Warner is looking to gather support from the public through the new Web site.

“We acknowledge that people don’t want their rates to go up,” Buscher said. However, higher fees could be the result if programmers secure higher payments.

Buscher declined to identify specific stations or programming that could be affected but did note there were “several” across the Carolinas.

“At this point we are not trying to attack any local broadcaster,” she said. “We just feel that we need to find a better way. Our customers are being held hostage.”

In a statement, Time Warner Chairman and Chief Executive officer Glenn Britt said the company has “some tough choices to make, and we want to make sure we’re doing what’s best for our customers, so we’re asking them to help us decide what to do.”

The Web site went live at noon Wednesday.

Time Warner has more than 14 million customers nationwide.


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  • dmccall Nov 30, 2009

    I will participate in this survey between 9am and 12pm on Saturday.

  • beachboater Nov 30, 2009

    "I have no problem with dropping these stations as long as TWC lowers my bill accordingly." echaze

    I think there is a better chance that all unethical congressmen / women would stand up and say I have been a bad boy / girl that to the have the cable companies lower any bill for any reason.

  • cary1969 Nov 27, 2009

    why all the complaints? if you don't like time warner...don't pay for it....easy as that.

  • lkanzig Nov 26, 2009


    welcome to earth! glad you could finally join us in reality!

  • protestthis Nov 25, 2009

    maybe if they had 1/4 of the channels they might offer alacarte - but as long as there are 400+ .. never happen

    All of us only watch a few - the companies that make all these channels basically hold the good chan hostage and force them to take 6 bad ones for one good one

  • teacher-mom Nov 25, 2009

    I am tired of paying high prices for channels I do not watch. Let's get rid of the Spanish channels and those shopping channels.

  • Tax Man Nov 25, 2009

    I really hate that TWC does not give me "a la carte" programming. I do not need their "packages" just a few good channels. I am ready to drop them if I lose any of my few favorites. Also don't understand why some are not in HD although they are available off air in HD????

    And my cable box goes crazy all the time - several different boxes and they all screw up - pixelated or just a blue screen - have to reset and hope for the best!

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Nov 25, 2009

    I've been over the air for a year now. I still see what I want and watch less mindless TV overall. I was happy with TWC. The service was good and I loved DVR, but the price was just too high. Now I have learned I can live without it.

  • protestthis Nov 25, 2009

    you think satellite tv is except from this kind of thing? LOL
    I can guarantee that they will be faced with the same mess - it just might take a little longer. Sure it might be cheaper now - and yea i hope TW doesn't give into them... but after enough of these cable providers do the same - where do you think the broadcaster/producers are going next.. SATELLITE TV!!! save your pennies now - you'll need them later

  • HemiTodd Nov 25, 2009

    If my rates go up again I'm dropping T/W and going back to DirectTV.