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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Time Warner Cable subscribers will continue to get Channel 12 broadcasts, at least for the time being.

Channel 12 on Time Warner ... for now


Hearst, the parent company that owns WISN-TV Ch. 12, has blacked out a number of its stations on Time Warner Cable across the country as retransmission negotiations have broken down.

Here in Milwaukee, Ch. 12 continues to air on the cable provider because Time Warner passes through the signal to Charter Communications subscribers. But, Charter and Hearst may be in talks with each other about direct transmission of the signal, and then, unless a peace has fallen across this landscape, Time Warner subscribers may be without Ch. 12.

I've been through this before – as a viewer like you, and as a TV insider – and am frankly surprised it did come to full disruption of a signal. I hesitated even covering the story because many times in the past, a last-minute agreement would be reached and the viewer would be none the wiser.

Many in Milwaukee are fortunate to not have the similar situation like those viewers in Boston, Pittsburgh or other markets that Hearst owns one of the major broadcast outlets. In some cases, Time Warner has made available other ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox stations from other geographical markets to provide the national network content.

When I worked in TV, I remember watching the clock, awaiting word from our corporate contacts how talks were going and if the signal would continue beyond contract deadlines. I hate it when viewers are in the middle of a slug-fest between corporations. The business executive in me understands these tactics, but on a personal level, I hate them. I know I'm not alone here either.

People in broadcasting work their rear ends off to provide the best content possible to gain the largest and most loyal audience. At the end of the day, that's their job. Cable companies work to get the best product available and sign up as many households as they can. When these two don't get along and end up disrupting their product to the audience they have worked so hard to garner, it makes little sense.

Sense or no sense, that's where we are.

"Time Warner Cable has terminated negotiations with our company, Hearst Television, for continued carriage of WISN-TV on Time Warner Cable systems," Jan Wade, president and general manager of WISN-TV, said in a statement released Wednesday.

"Time Warner Cable refuses to pay our station a reasonable fee relative to what it pays for other significantly less popular channels. Time Warner's characterization of the percentage increase in carriage fees we are seeking is inaccurate. We have sought a reasonable increase consistent with the increased costs we have to pay for our highly valued programming and the carriage fees now paid to us by Time Warner's competitors. Time Warner Cable is seeking a significant discount off market-based fees that is neither fair nor reasonable," Wade said.

Time Warner claimed that Hearst called off the talks, as they were still open to continuing negotiations.

"Tonight, Hearst Television has chosen to black out their signals from our customers rather than continue negotiations, despite their CEO saying just two weeks ago that broadcaster blackouts are unfair to consumers," Time Warner's statement read on Monday. "Time Warner Cable has reached hundreds of agreements with other broadcasters without broadcaster blackouts, but Hearst's demand for a nearly 300 percent increase is way out of line."

As the days pass, it will be interesting to see how long Ch. 12 will be available on TWC, or if an agreement is reached and all of the markets with Hearst stations are back.

As always, viewers can continue to get Ch. 12 over the air, or on some other service. Find details at WISN.com.

Time Warner points people to its conversation website about station retransmission here.

(Editor's Note: In his career, Steve has worked for a number of different media outlets, including WISN-TV in Milwaukee.)

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