Time Warner and the owners of WIVB TV have reached a deal that will keep the station and its sister station WNLO TV on the region’s largest cable system.
WIVB anchor Jacquie Walker announced the settlement on the 5 p.m. news, shortly after the deadline for a deal had passed.
No details were announced about the deal, which affected LIN stations in 14 markets that served 1.5 million TWC subscribers. Joli Plucknette-Farmen, a spokesperson for the cable system, released this statement: “Time Warner Cable has reached an agreement with LIN Media for continued carriage of their broadcast stations. Time Warner Cable customers can continue to view the programming of LIN Media’s stations without interruption.”
Time Warner’s deal with LIN Media to carry WIVB and WNLO – channels 4 and 23 – expired today and the two sides had said that unless a new deal was struck or an extension is granted, the two stations would be off the local cable company that is in 54 percent of households in Western New York.
Channel 4 continued to run warnings about the possibility that the stations would be off Time Warner unless a national deal were struck by today’s deadline. Channel 4’s nightly announcement concludes that “you deserve to get the local news and programming that you are already paying for in your cable bill.”
LIN believes it is entitled to more compensation because the CBS programming carried on Channel 4 is among the most watched here, as it is on other network affiliates across the country.
Time Warner, which could have lost subscribers to satellite TV or other alternative providers if a deal were not struck, had said LIN was asking for a 50 percent increase from the last deal it paid to carry stations that the majority of its subscribers can receive free over the air. It also stands to reason that Time Warner’s refusal to pay LIN’s price will benefit subscribers because any increased cost is likely to be passed down to the consumer.
In 2008, Time Warner distributed free rabbit ear antennas to local subscribers to enable many of them to get the LIN channels here without cable. In some cases, rabbit ears connected to HDTV sets deliver a better picture than cable does.
The two sides made a retransmission deal a few years ago without much drama; it is that deal that expired today. Time Warner and the satellite providers have gotten into similar fights with other station owners in this market since 2008. Generally, they’ve been resolved at the eleventh hour or slightly afterward.
LIN did not appear to have as much leverage this time as it did in 2008 for a variety of reasons.
For one thing, the May sweeps period is over, and the networks that LIN stations carry will be airing mostly reality shows and reruns throughout the summer. During the dispute five years ago, the new TV season had barely begun in October.
Time Warner viewers also were in jeopardy of losing Buffalo Bills games (the highest rated programming in Western New York) carried on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate. The NFL regular season and the new fall TV season are more than three months away now.
And then there is the advancement in technology in the almost five years since the 2008 dispute. CBS series are streamed on the Internet a day or so after they air on the network. It isn’t ideal to do it that way, but the inconvenience might be worth it to people who want to save money.
In addition, Channel 4 is now in testing to stream its newscasts live, and the same technology that enables people to see network series will soon enable them to watch News 4 Buffalo (unless Channel 4 stops streaming if a deal isn’t made).
Channel 4 News, which recently lost the ratings lead to Channel 2 News, doesn’t need this argument. In fact, a case could be made that Channel 4’s news decline was accelerated by LIN’s national October 2008 battle with Time Warner that led some local news viewers to sample its rivals.
WNLO-TV (CW 23) is not a major player in this market. CW prime time programs averaged less than a 1 rating during the May sweeps here, and on some nights averaged just 0.2.