Breaking news to Time Warner customers who turned on their TVs to WXII Channel 12 Tuesday was that it was no longer there — instead news coverage from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., took its place.
WXII’s agreement with Time Warner for the cable company to carry broadcasting from the Winston-Salem television station ended at 11:59 p.m. on Monday.
Scott Pryzwansky, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable in the Carolinas, said that a demand by WXII’s parent company for a 300-percent increase in broadcasting fees is behind the deadlock between Heart broadcasting and Time Warner, and is the reason local cable customers are now without Channel 12.
He said Time Warner is not negotiating with WXII directly, but rather its parent company Hearst Television, which owns WXII and 28 other TV stations.
“We hope to reach an agreement against Hearst’s demands. We are trying to hold down the cost of TV for our customers,” said Pryzwansky.
A statement on WXII’s website Tuesday stated, “Unfortunately, notwithstanding our best efforts to reach a new carriage agreement, we were unable to do so. As a result, unless there is a change in Time Warner’s position, carriage of WXII will no longer be available to you on Time Warner systems. We cannot predict if or when discussions with Time Warner will resume or if or when WXII’s programming will be restored on Time Warner systems.”
That announcement on WXII’s website was followed by a message that the NBC affiliate’s coverage of the Olympics starts on July 27.
In lieu of broadcasting WXII, Time Warner Cable is broadcasting WBRE-TV, a Pennsylvania-based NBC affiliate.
Pryzwansky suggested that viewers tune to other television stations in the area to get regional news and weather reports.
“Our customers can still view their favorite NBC programming. They will still be able to see the Olympics and be able to see all of their network programming,” said Pryzwansky.
WXII’s General Manager Hank Price encouraged Time Warner customers to switch to other cable or satellite providers.
“In light of this impasse, we urge viewers to make alternative arrangements for receipt of our signal. Contrary to Time Warner’s claim, we have not ‘blacked out’ our station,” said Price. “You may continue to receive our station for free, over the air, or by satellite from DirecTV or DISH, and, where available, from other cable operators. We cannot predict if or when discussions with Time Warner will resume or if or when WXII’s programming will be restored on Time Warner systems.”
Pryzwansky said that switching providers may not solve blackout problems, like the one being experienced by WXII viewers now.
“Most of these contract blackouts are over within a matter of days. But switching isn’t really the answer — any provider you switch to may eventually face the same kind of blackout threats. In fact, the American Television Alliance reports that broadcasters have blacked out signals in nearly 100 different cities since January 2011, with customers of DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS and other major cable companies suffering actual or threatened blackouts. We think blackouts are unfair to viewers, which is why we continue to negotiate hard on your behalf to try to keep prices down,” said Pryzwansky.
Price said he hopes the dispute between Hearst and Time Warner is resolved sooner than later. He said negotiations were continuing between the companies in New York, N.Y., on Tuesday.
Once an agreement is reached, he said, WXII can be back on the air within seconds.
“We just hope that this is solved quickly. The reason we are off is that this is a retransmission agreement that allows Time Warner to carry our signal. They are still receiving our signal, they just don’t have the right to put it on. It’s technically a very simple — an instant thing as soon as the two parties reach an agreement,” said Price.
Meanwhile, those answering the phones at WXII have been busy, Price said.
“The phones are ringing a lot. Viewers want to know what’s going on and when it is going to be restored,” said Price.
The previous contract between the two companies expired at the end of June but was extended to July 9 as negotiations continued, Price said, to avoid possible service interruptions during the post-July 4 weekend.
Reach Mondee Tilley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1930.