Sinclair/Time Warner deal keeps Tampa's WTTA-Ch. 38 on Bright House Cable for two more weeks
(UPDATE: Sinclair must have realized what I wrote in this blog space yesterday; late Friday, the company announced an agreement with Time Warner and Bright House to keep its stations on the cable systems for two more weeks -- I expect a face-saveing resolution announcement sometime next week.
The release follows: St. Petersburg, FL (December 31, 2010) – Bright House Networks has announced that Bright House Networks and Sinclair Broadcast Group has entered into a 14-day extension that will provide Bright House Networks cable customers continued programming of My TV Tampa Bay (WTTA).
This extension allows Bright House Networks to continue carrying Sinclair’s channels while negotiations continue between both companies.
“We will continue to work toward a fair deal for our customers,” said Steve Miron, Chief Executive Officer, Bright House Networks.
For the latest information on the negotiations, visit www.onyourside.brighthouse.com.)
Looks like Time Warner and Sinclair Broadcasting are stuck in the same kind of New Year's Eve brinkmanship that once had fans of Fox worrying about continued access to American Idol: A fight over retransmission fees.
And because Time Warner negotiates carriage agreements from Bright House, and Sinclair owns Tampa's MyNetworkTV affiliate WTTA, this means Channel 38 could drop off much of the area's TV screens on Saturday, barring an extension agreement or resolution of the fight.
This is a lower-profile squabble, mostly because Sinclair doesn't own a major program outlet like a network. So if it yanks stations from time Warner and Bright House systems, the cable systems can always negotiate deals with the networks to carry their programming -- which is usually the most valued by customers.
In Tampa, WTTA mostly shows syndicated reruns of shows such as The New Adventures of Old Christine, Burn Notice, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm, along with syndicated daytime shows such as Maury and The People's Court. News reports say Sinclair is seeking an increase of 10 cents per subscriber from Time Warner, but the cable company may feel comfortable playing hardball since Sinclair doesn't own major program providers -- removing Sinclair stations from cable would seem to hurt them more than Time Warner, especially in Tampa.
On its website, the station is encouraging viewers to switch to DirecTV or over the air methods to get the channel (see their message to the public here). But given that WTTA regularly turns up at the bottom of the local ratings, such loyalty seems doubtful.
Joe Durkin, local Bright House spokesman, responded to questions on the issue with this statement by email: "At this point negotiations are ongoing and the question if we will lose WTTA is up to Sinclair. Most programmers or channel owners stay on and put the mutual customers first during negotiations. If an agreement is not reached by December 31st, Sinclair can provide Bright House Networks with an extension to keep its programming on our line up while an agreement is being reached."