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10/29/2008

WLUK back on cable lineup; in digital, too

By: Warren Gerds, Green Bay Press Gazette

A bone of contention for many Green Bay Packers fans has vanished.

An agreement reached this morning between Time Warner Cable and LIN TV includes digital and high-definition signals.

“For those people who subscribe to digital cable and have HD through Time Warner, this will be a major coup,” said Jay Zollar, general manager of Fox affiliate WLUK, Channel 11, which is owned by LIN.

WLUK returned to the Time Warner lineup early Wednesday morning at channel 11 in Marinette and Poy Sippi and channel 12 in all other areas of the cable system in Northeastern Wisconsin.

At 8:30 a.m., Time Warner added WLUK HD at channel 712.

The World Series, which is scheduled to resume tonight, may be seen on that channel, as well as Sunday’s Packers game at the Tennessee Titans.

Time Warner subscribers with HD capability complained long and hard that they wanted to see the games with high-definition’s sharper picture and sound.

In this area, the agreement affects approximately 150,000 Time Warner subscribers. In other LIN markets, 1.5 million subscribers are affected.

“We are pleased to come to an agreement that will return programming to our customers,” Melinda Witmer, chief programming officer for Time Warner Cable, said in a statement. “We thank our customers for their continued patience and support as we worked to resolve this issue.”

The blackout started Oct. 3, when the corporations could not come to terms on a retransmission consent agreement, for which broadcasters hold the reins. LIN told Time Warner to take its stations off the systems in 11 markets.

“Ultimately, it came down to the compensation that we were seeking and what they were willing to end up with,” Zollar said. “It took time to get that worked through.”

Compensation is involved in the new contract, Zollar said, without adding details.

“I cannot comment on the terms of the contract whatsoever,” he said.

In a statement, Vincent Sandusky, LIN president and chief operation officer, called it “a fair market agreement.”

LIN had said it was seeking 30 cents a month per subscriber for Time Warner to carry its stations.

Last week, Time Warner, the second-largest cable operator in the United States, announced basic and extended basic subscribers would see rate increases of 10 to 12 percent a month starting in November.

The deal with LIN may have a ripple effect as other station owners negotiate with cable, satellite and other providers on coming contracts.

“It’s something that I’m sure the industry, both cable and broadcast, were watching and looking at,” Zollar said. “But how people interpret it and what they do with it really ultimately is going to be up to each individual company.”

The agreement arrives just days before the November ratings “sweeps,” which dictate what advertisers pay.

Advertisers kept an eye on the situation.

“Clearly, there were some ramifications of our not being on the Time Warner, but we were up front with our advertisers,” Zollar said. “We offered whatever we could in order to make them happy, and we’re still looking at it and we’ll review each individual advertising schedule on a case-by-case basis.”

Aside from Green Bay, other markets affected by the agreement are Austin, Texas; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Mobile, Ala.; Springfield, Mass.; Terre Haute, Ind.; and Toledo, Ohio.

During the blackout, WLUK remained on the air with its over-the-air signals and on other cable systems in the region and satellite and AT&T where available.

As it did in other markets, Time Warner gave out thousands of rabbit-ear antennas an A/B switches so subscribers could watch WLUK. Time Warner also activated the Fox Sports Spanish-language network so subscribers could watch the World Series.

Source: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20081029/GPG0101/81029011/1207/GPG01


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