Time Warner Cable says it is continuing to negotiate a new retrans deal, but if talks are unsuccessful by the Dec. 31 deadline and Sinclair pulls its stations, the cable operator will offer programming from the Big 4 networks.
Time Warner Cable announced Thursday evening that it was still hoping to reach a long-term agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting. However, it said that “if Sinclair refuses Time Warner Cable’s offers and requires the company to cease carrying its signals, Time Warner Cable will continue to provide all available Big 4 network programming to its customers.”
TWC’s agreement with Sinclair expires at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31 and Sinclair is threatening to take its stations off the air if an agreement with the cable operator on retransmission consent fees isn’t reached.
“We will provide all available Big 4 network programming in the event that Sinclair takes away its signals,” said Rob Marcus, president-COO of Time Warner Cable. “We want our customers to remember that we’re fighting hard to contain the rising costs of broadcast programming. We are also still working to reach a long-term agreement with Sinclair before our current contract ends tomorrow night, and in fact discussions between the Time Warner Cable programming team and Sinclair have taken place as recently as this morning and are ongoing.”
TWC does say how it would make the network programming available in its latest release, but in a prior announcement it said that it has the rights to bypass local Fox affiliates and air Fox programming under a provision of its retrans contract with Fox. And in markets in upstate New York and Vermont earlier this month, it simply imported affiliate signals from adjacent markets when retrans negotiatins with local affiliates collapse.
In the prepared statement, Marcus also said that Sinclair “has not missed a chance to obfuscate or misrepresent the current state of negotiations. We have never terminated negotiations, and we don’t plan to do so, even if Sinclair pulls the plug tomorrow night. We hope this sets the record straight.”
During negotiations, TWC said it has “offered several significant and innovative approaches to reach an agreement with Sinclair” including:
- “Offering a deal on terms that are as favorable to Sinclair as deals Time Warner Cable has negotiated with other station owners.
- “Willingness to agree to arbitration for the Big 4 networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) carried by Sinclair, and revert its MyNetworkTV and CW networks to must-carry status.
- “Willingness to offer Sinclair stations a la carte, with Sinclair naming the price and keeping all of the money.”
Sinclair, TWC said, “has summarily rejected every offer and has repeatedly claimed to ‘terminate’ negotiations over the past three months. Time Warner Cable remains hard at work on additional proposals and is exploring creative options to resolve this dispute before the current contract expires.”
In addition, the cable operator added, “the number of Time Warner Cable customers that would be affected if Sinclair pulls its signals has been inaccurately portrayed. Time Warner Cable has approximately 4 million customers who receive local broadcast stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.”