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WDRB Boss to Local Stations: You're Next

WDRB-TV in Louisville is currently without about half of its audience as negotiations continue with Time Warner Cable.The talks are over how much Time Warner should pay WDRB to broadcast local content. Time Warner says it has offered a rate comparable to what Insight used to pay WDRB, but station officials say it won't cover the necessary costs to keep that station a Fox affiliate.The contract between the two expired Thursday night, and the station has not been available to Time Warner Cable subscribers since. Brinkmanship is common in negotiations like this, but a channel being pulled isn't. WDRB General Manager Bill Lamb says since Time Warner is new in the area, the company is using his station to send a message to the other local channels.“[They're saying] we're from New York. We're going to do it differently then you've done it before. Look at what happened to WDRB because they didn't do it the way we wanted to do it," says Lamb. “[The other local stations] know exactly what we're going through. It's one of those 'There but for the grace of God go I.' They know they're next."Lamb says about half of WDRB's viewers watch on Time Warner. He also says he hasn't heard from any advertisers yet, but talks will continue with Time Warner.Time Warner issued the following statement:

Time Warner Cable is always negotiating new contracts with TV stations and networks. We’ve reached hundreds of agreements with other broadcasters without broadcaster blackouts, but what Block Communications, (the owner of WDRB and WMYO) is demanding is out of line.



Interestingly, Block Communications is the owner of Buckeye Cable, a cable television operator in [Ohio]. When Block is negotiating as a cable operator, they too believe that excessive retransmission consent fees are out of line: In a 2008 dispute with WNWO in Toledo, Ohio, Buckeye officials said: “Just like cable channels, broadcasters are permitted to ask us for compensation before they grant us permission. This demand WNWO is asking for is very unreasonable and exceeds the value for agreements with other Toledo area broadcasters.”



Unfortunately, instead of continuing negotiations, Block Communications has chosen to black out their signals from our customers.  Time Warner Cable has offered to continue carrying WDRB and WMYO at the same price paid previously by Insight Communications, which we purchased earlier this year.  Block Communications has refused that offer and is demanding higher prices – for the exact same programming, most of which is also available for free over the air or online. We don’t think that’s fair.  We think it’s wrong to put viewers in the middle of business negotiations. We know our customers are tired of these public contract disputes – and so are we.



While we hope to reach an agreement in this negotiation soon, we’re determined to stand up for our customers against Block’s demands and to try to hold down the cost of TV. 

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.