KITV signal pulled from cable provider
Jul 11, 2012 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Time Warner Cable blamed "greedy broadcasters," while KITV, the Hawaii ABC-TV affiliate, complained of "Time Warner's exaggerated and distorted claims," as the two reached an impasse that left most Hawaii television viewers without KITV programming.
Negotiations between KITV owner Hearst Television and Time Warner ended Monday when they couldn't agree on how much the cable company would pay Hearst for the signal. Once the talks ended, Hearst decided to stop sending programming from its 14 television stations to Time Warner.
Time Warner said Hearst is at fault: "Hearst Television chose to black out their signals from Time Warner Cable customers rather than continue negotiations."
KITV said Time Warner was to blame: "Time Warner Cable ... has terminated negotiations with our company, Hearst Television, for continued carriage of KITV."
How long the feud will last is hard to say. Similar disputes and resulting blackouts on the mainland have ranged from hours to six weeks long. One such blackout caused viewers to lose access to the Super Bowl broadcast.
If the dispute continues all day today, most viewers will likely miss KITV's Honolulu mayoral debate, which will be held at today at 7 p.m. The 90-minute debate between Mayor Peter Carlisle, Kirk Caldwell and Ben Cayetano will go on despite the cable blackout. The debate, as well as KITV's local newscasts, can be seen online.
While Oceanic Time Warner, Hawaii's largest cable TV provider, is not carrying KITV, all KITV programming can still be viewed via Hawaiian Telcom TV or satellite services DirecTV and DISH Network. Another option that works is using an antenna on a TV with a digital converter box.
Hearst and Time Warner, which are both based in New York, did not say when they expect negotiations to resume.
KITV President and General Manager Andrew Jackson said viewers calling the station Tuesday said they were "concerned" and that "they want their KITV signal" back.
ABC was to debut new shows Tuesday night, including medical show "NY Med," and "Trust Us with Your Life," in which bits of celebrities' lives are re-enacted by comedians skilled at improvisation.
The dispute affected not only Hawaii, but also Boston; Portland, Maine; Hartford, Vt.; Winston-Salem N.C.; Lincoln, Neb.; Louisville, Ky.; Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; and two stations each in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Kansas City, Mo., according to information posted online by Time Warner Cable.
In some mainland markets the company accommodated subscribers by piping in affected network programming from other markets, according to its website: "Certain rules limit our ability to import TV signals from other cities. We have done so where those rules currently permit it."
Prior to the January 2009 analog-to-digital TV transition, ratings service Nielsen estimated that only 5 percent of Hawaii households watched broadcast television, while the vast majority, 95 percent, subscribed to cable or satellite services.
Bob Barlow, Oceanic Time Warner president, said the blackout includes KITV's second digital channel, Me TV; HD signals; and analog Channel 4, he said.
"We also had to take all ABC programming off Primetime on Demand," he said, adding that "no other broadcast or cable channels were impacted."
Paul Cinker of local satellite company The Satellite Guy Inc. said, "We are experiencing many more (inquiries) in general both for DISH Network and DirecTV platforms today."
Time Warner discouraged subscribers from switching to another provider, saying other providers could also end up in contract disputes with TV stations.
Time Warner Cable said Hearst demanded a 300 percent increase in fees, which Time Warner said was "way out of line ... unfair to our customers and unsustainable for our business."
The 300 percent figure is "incorrect," said KITV's Jackson, though he did not provide another number. "The fees we're asking from Time Warner Cable are based on fees being paid by other cable companies under recent deals," he said, calling the fee-demand allegation an "exaggerated and distorted characterization of the fairness of our proposal."
Advertisers who have paid for the reach of KITV's commercials to a much larger cable-carried audience are not reaching as many eyes during the blackout. Jackson said KITV will make adjustments for its advertisers. "We will honor all agreements in terms of reaching a full audience with their spots," he said.
Under the 1992 Cable Act enacted by Congress, commercial TV stations won the right to negotiate with and receive compensation from cable companies for retransmitting their programming -- known as retransmission agreements.
Cable companies previously built large subscriber bases without having to pay broadcast stations for their content.
Watch ABC network shows:
NAB on retrans/must carry:
The Satellite Guy (DirecTV/DISH Network installer in Hawaii):
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