TWC offers arbitration to Fox, agrees with Raycom


Time Warner Cable is bringing John Kerry (D-MA) into its dispute with Fox Television O&Os over retransmission fees, and in an attempt to keep the college bowl season and other high interest programming coming over its wires, is offering to submit to arbitration and any other necessary interim steps pending a final agreement.

Meanwhile, TWC has come to terms with stations it carries that are part of the Raycom group.

The hotly contested TWC-Fox battle reaches the tipping point 12/31/09. Fox, reportedly seeking $1 per subscriber in retransmission fees, is threatening to pull its local broadcast O&O signals from Time Warner Cable systems.

Fox is said to be considering the arbitration offer.

Kerry has shown a willingness to step into disputes between various program distributors when high interest sports programming is involved. He has suggested an arbitration process that would either extend the current deal or adjust it with a retroactive reckoning applied based on a final agreement, so that viewers caught in the middle of the dispute are not the ones who are punished.

The Fox dispute involves only those local stations it actually owns. Most of its affiliates are owned by other companies.

The Raycom agreement is expected to be signed 1/15/10, and programming will remain available to cable systems until that time. Raycom and TWC are said to have station/system relationships in eight markets, involving affiliates of several different national networks.

RBR-TVBR observation: These disputes are not going to go away, but they do tend to follow the same path. Both sides put their best pitchers on the mound and play some serious hardball, but with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, come to an agreement. Sometimes the hardball continues into the 10th inning, but rarely does it go much farther.

While the negotiations are in progress, people wonder if viewers will get to see their favorite programming. The mainstream press is breathlessly all over that question.

But in the end, broadcasters and cable operators will have taken another step down the free market path toward arriving at a correct per-subscriber value for local broadcast television, just as dealers and consumers do when they negotiate the price of a new car.