The group owner says talks have broken down after Time Warner Cable turned down a retrans fee of 10 cents per sub and didn’t make a counter offer. TWC says that’s not true and that it remains “open and willing to negotiate a reasonable agreement for our customers and have no intention of declaring negotiations to be at an end even in the event that Sinclair decides to pull their signals from Time Warner Cable on Dec. 31.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group announced today that negotiations with Time Warner Cable have come to an end “as a result of Time Warner Cable’s refusal to engage in further negotiations.”
Sinclair’s most recent financial offer — a monthly per-station increase that averaged 10 cents per subscriber — was rejected by TWC, Sinclair said, adding that TWC “refused to provide a financial counter-proposal, effectively ending negotiations.” As a result, Sinclair television stations will no longer be carried on Time Warner Cable systems after midnight on Dec. 31.
Sinclair said its most recent offer would have guaranteed that the price being paid by Time Warner Cable “would be equal to or less than the price agreed to by every other major cable and satellite provider with which Sinclair has completed a deal during the past two years.”
This “most-favored nations” protection included not only Time Warner’s primary competitors, DirecTV and Dish Network, but also the agreement reached with Charter earlier this year and the agreement reached with Mediacom just last week. Sinclair said the pricing proposed by Sinclair is also less than what published reports indicate the cable industry pays for less popular programming streams, such as ESPN, TNT, the Disney Channel, Fox News and others.
Sinclair said it has also offered to match the pricing pursuant to which Time Warner Cable claims it will be able to continue to carry Fox network programming, a proposal that Sinclair said Time Warner “has also rejected without even making a counter-proposal. Time Warner has also rejected Sinclair’s suggestion to resolve the dispute using a fair and reasonable binding arbitration process.”
The expiring agreement with Time Warner Cable covers 33 television stations received by more than 8.5 million of what Time Warner Cable refers to as primary service units.
“We simply do not understand why Time Warner insists on being treated better than its competition,” said Barry Faber, Sinclair’s EVP-general counsel, “rather than accepting our equitable proposal to provide them equivalent or better pricing than is paid by their competition. It is particularly troubling that Time Warner would deprive its subscribers of the extremely popular programming broadcast by our television stations when the monthly per station increase we are seeking amounts to just 10 cents per subscriber, an increase made necessary by rapidly increasing programming costs at our stations. With such a small increase we suspect that most of our loyal viewers would prefer that Time Warner Cable, which recently announced a fee increase of $3 per month in at least one market, stop acting on its threat to ‘Get Tough’ and we hope that these viewers will let Time Warner Cable know this by switching to alternative video providers, many of which charge less than Time Warner Cable and none of which are currently at risk of losing access to any of the stations involved.”
Time Warner Cable, in a statement, dened Sinclair’s claims, saying:
“Sinclair’s statement is false. Time Warner Cable has at no time told Sinclair that we were terminating negotiations. To the contrary, it is Sinclair who has repeatedly over the last three months declared discussions to be at an end and this is more of the same from Sinclair. Time Warner Cable has presented Sinclair with at least three possible solutions, including arbitration for Sinclair’s Big 4 stations. We remain open and willing to negotiate a reasonable agreement for our customers and have no intention of declaring negotiations to be at an end even in the event that Sinclair decides to pull their signals from Time Warner Cable on Dec. 31.”