Friday, February 24, 2012

You wouldn't think it'd happen, but it just might.......

Every year, it seems, Time Warner Cable is in a dispute of some kind with some channel, and the subscribers are the ones that suffer the most.

Less than a week after TWC had resolved its issues with MSG Networks, a smaller-scale issue's been raised in my market. ABC affiliate WTEN revealed during its news broadcasts beginning Thursday that the station's parent company, Young Broadcasting, is in a dialogue with TWC to remain available to cable subscribers when the current agreement between the two expires on Wednesday, 2/29. Now, you'd think, this can't be happening. Local channels are virtually protected from such matters, right? Wrong.

The issue between TWC & Young Broadcasting, while it hasn't been publicly acknowledged, in sharp contrast to the very public discourse between TWC & MSG, almost certainly has to be the usual suspect----money. Now, I haven't yet logged on to WTEN's website, where they have the details they'd rather not include during the news for rather obvious reasons, but I can imagine that's the source of the dispute. Nothing's been written up in the local papers because Young Broadcasting and/or TWC would like to keep this matter as private as possible to avoid consumer panic and/or apathy towards either side. In that regard, I salute both parties.

Unlike the MSG issue, in which case TWC was able to have a contingency plan in place, nothing has been set up yet in case they do lose WTEN, which in turn would set a dangerous precedent. It wasn't that long ago that Fox affiliate WXXA had a similar issue, but that was resolved before any blackout could be initiated. That having been said, it's very likely WTEN will also avoid a blackout with an 11th hour agreement by Wednesday. With ABC's roster of primetime shows, including Modern Family and the freshman hit, Once Upon a Time, plus the lone soap opera still on the network, the venerable General Hospital, WTEN cannot afford to lose so many viewers.

When cable television first came to upstate NY nearly 40 years ago, it made changing channels that much easier on the local level, but no one in their wildest dreams could imagine that in 2012, the local channels that were part of the lifeblood of local cablers back then would be endangered just because of a few extra dollars. It's funny how times change, and sometimes, not for the better.

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