Sinclair Broadcast Group reaches deal with Time Warner

Cable customers in 17 markets to keep network channels

February 02, 2011|By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

Hunt Valley-based Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said Wednesday it has settled a contract dispute with Time Warner Cable Inc., reaching a multiyear agreement that allows the cable provider to carry signals for 28 Sinclair television stations.

That means Time Warner customers in 17 markets from Portland, Maine, to Pensacola, Fla., will have access to network TV stations such as Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC affiliates that might otherwise have gone dark. Time Warner, the second-largest cable operator in the United States, serves customers in 28 states, mainly in New York, the Carolinas, Ohio, Texas and Southern California. It does not offer service in Maryland.

Negotiations between the companies had stalled just before the contract was to expire on Dec. 31, but the companies agreed to extend the deadline.

The companies had been unable to agree on the fee that the cable provider would pay the broadcast station owner to include its signals in channel lineups. Broadcast companies used to allow cable providers to carry their channels for free and made their money selling commercial time. But competition with cable networks for ad dollars has intensified, and broadcasters now see fees from cable providers as a crucial revenue stream.

Sinclair — which owns, operates or programs 58 television stations in 35 markets, including Fox 45 in Baltimore — contends that cable operators essentially resell broadcasters' programming and wanted the cable company to pay more for the right to carry signals from its stations. Time Warner had resisted an increase.

The companies did not disclose terms of the contract, other than to say it calls for Time Warner to produce three new half-hour local news programs to run weekdays on Sinclair's ABC affiliate in Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C., starting in January 2012.

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