After its retrans talks with Smith Media collapsed last night, Time Warner Cable was forced to drop Smith's NBC affiliate in Utica, N.Y., and its ABC and Fox affiliates in Burlington, Vt. But rather than go without those signals, TWC substituted affiliates of those same networks from other markets.
Denied Locals, TWC Importing Distant Signals
Denied retransmission consent by Smith Media for its affiliates in Utica, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y., Time Warner Cable on Thursday began importing affiliates of the same networks from other markets.
In Utica, Time Warner replaced Smith’s NBC affiliate WKTV with Nexstar’s WBRE Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa.
Meanwhile, in Burlington, it replaced Fox affiliate WFFF with WNYF-CA Watertown, N.Y., and ABC affiliate WVNY with Nexstar-managed WUTR. Smith operates WVNY through a shared services agreement.
The signal shuffle was triggered by the failure of Time Warner and Smith to reach a new retrans deal despite five years of trying. The last extension of the old deal expired last night, according to Kevin Latek, an attorney for Smith.
Terence Rafferty, regional VP of operations for Time Warner, said in a prepared statement the cable operator made the substitutions so its customers would not miss out on their favorite programming.
“It’s unfortunate that Smith decided to take their local stations off our lineup, with little regard for their viewers, advertisers and our customers,” Rafferty said.
“It’s our responsibility to reach an agreement at a fair price on behalf of our customers, and Smith was simply unwilling to be reasonable during our negotiations.”
Mike Granados, CEO of Smith Media, said that the small station group (it also owns KEYT Santa Barbara, Calif.) has negotiated with Time Warner “in good faith” and that it has long history of doing retrans deals without causing any service interruptions.
“We believe we are asking for fair market value for our content,” he said.
“At the end of the day, Time Warner just continues not to recognize the millions of dollars we’ve invested in the news product for the last 50 years. And it’s somewhat appalling and insulting to the people of Utica and the surrounding area to bring in a Pennsylvania newscast and let them watch news from a market 200 miles away.”
Granados also said that Nexstar told him that it has sent cease-and-desists letters to Time Warner Cable, asserting that it never gave the operator permission to carry its stations outside their markets.
In an e-mail, Nexstar CEO Perry Sook confirmed that those letters went out, but declined to make any comment.