With a retransmission-consent dispute with a Texas broadcaster leaving it unable to carry Sunday's Super Bowl 46 on NBC, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) has handed out more than 7,000 over-the-air antennas to subscribers on its Corpus Christi system.
The MSO, which counts about 80,000 customers in Corpus Christi, lost the feeds of NBC affiliate KRIS-TV and three other local stations after its retransmission-consent agreement with parent Cordillera Communications expired on Dec. 13.
"The broadcaster is making outrageous demands," Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff said regarding the increases in fees that Cordillera is pushing for. With NBC and the NFL distributing the Super Bowl online for the first time, subscribers who don't pick up an antenna will be able to watch the game on the Web. And Huff noted that Time Warner Cable has an agreement with NBC that lets its subscribers watch primetime programming through its video-on-demand platform.
The dispute also prompted Corpus Christi attorney and Time Warner Cable subscriber David Burkett to sue the company, complaining that he's not getting all of the channels in his $140 monthly bill. Burkett has suggested that he be allowed to make partial payments of $50 monthly until Time Warner Cable reaches an agreement with the broadcasters.
Cordillera isn't the only NBC affiliate to attempt to use the Super Bowl to squeeze increased retransmission-consent fees from a distributor. Sunbeam Television had threatened to block DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) subscribers from watching the championship game on Boston station WHDH-TV, but reached a deal after Massachusetts U.S. Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown intervened.
While only 80,000 homes may be impacted, the Time Warner Cable-Cordillera dispute will mark a significant addition to the annals of retransmission battles if subscribers are unable to access the biggest TV event of the year. It could also be cited by pay TV distributors as an example of why the FCC and Congress should reform retransmission-consent rules.
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