That was quick. Some 25 Hearst-owned TV stations are back on Dish Network about 14 hours after they went dark in a retransmission contract dispute. The companies didn’t disclose terms. Hearst said that it regrets the hassle for consumers and advertisers and is “pleased the interruption was brief and that our stations have been restored on Dish Network systems.” The fight hit ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, MyNetwork and independent stations in markets including Albuquerque, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Tampa. Last night Dish General Counsel R. Stanton Dodge said that the showdown with Hearst — leading to the station black out — “is a prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts.” Another Dish exec, Dave Schull, said that the No. 2 satellite company “offered to keep the channels on while we try to reach a deal, but Hearst refuses to put viewers first.”
More than two dozen network-affiliated Hearst Television stations went dark on the satcaster tonight after the sides hit a wall in their retransmission talks. Dish Network‘s carriage deal with Hearst TV expired March 1, but the parties had extended the deadline to tonight at 7 PM Pacific. The blackout affects more than two dozen Hearst stations including ABC affil WCVB in Boston, the nation’s No. 7 TV market, and outlets in top 25 markets Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Tampa, FL. It comes the same day that the Weather Channel and satellite giant DirecTV settled their carriage dispute and seven months after Time Warner Cable and CBS settled their bitter retrans fight.
NEW YORK, December 6, 2012 – Hearst Corporation today announced that David J. Barrett has been named chairman and CEO of Hearst Television and Jordan Wertlieb has been named president. The announcements were made by Hearst Corporation CEO Frank A. Bennack, Jr. Both promotions are effective immediately.
“David has been an important leader at Hearst for nearly 30 years and remains a force in the broadcast industry, championing the digital and mobile future of television news and information,” Bennack said. “I congratulate him on his new role as chairman and look forward to his continued stewardship of the expansion and success of Hearst Television.”
The suit at U.S. District Court in northern Texas involves an interesting quirk in Time Warner Cable’s retransmission consent dispute with Hearst, which since July 9 has left more than 2M cable customers in 11 markets without access to the broadcaster’s programming. The No. 2 cable company is filling the gap in some of its communities by importing signals from Nexstar’s CBS affiliate in Rochester, NY and NBC affiliates in Terre Haute, Ind. and Wilkes Barre, Penn. It’s usually illegal for a pay TV provider to import a signal from a distant station — especially without its consent. Nexstar is asking the court to force Time Warner Cable to pull the plug. Nexstar says that the cable company is infringing on the copyright for its local newscasts, and is “irreparably harming Nexstar’s goodwill with its national networks and advertisers.” On Friday the company filed an emergency petition to the FCC seeking an injunction and sanctions against Time Warner Cable. “Nexstar intends to pursue all legal and regulatory remedies to cause Time Warner to cease and desist misappropriating signals,” the broadcaster says. But Time Warner Cable says that its carriage of the Nexstar signals “is fully authorized by the retransmission consent agreement between the parties.” The company adds that it is “disappointed that Nexstar is working to assist and expand Hearst’s leverage against us and our customers.” It says that it will fight “this aggressive and coercive …
UPDATE, 3:38 PM: Hearst Television President David Barrett says that Time Warner Cable’s making “exaggerated and distorted claims” about their dispute. His company wants “a reasonable increase” in line with its programming costs “and the carriage fees now paid to us by Time Warner’s competitors.” It has more than 150 other deals, and that “is the real measure…of the fairness of our proposal.” The cable company “is seeking a significant discount of market-based fees that is neither fair nor reasonable.”
PREVIOUS, 11:32 AM: The breakdown over price affects 13 communities including 2M Time Warner Cable customers, as well as Bright House subscribers in Orlando and Tampa. The stations went dark at midnight; Hearst’s contract expired on June 30, but it agreed to let Time Warner Cable continue to carry its stations through the July 4 holiday. It appears to be a garden variety retransmission consent disagreement: Time Warner Cable says on a web site that “Hearst’s demand for a nearly 300% increase is way out of line. That kind of outrageous increase is unfair to our customers and unsustainable for our business.” There’s no comment yet from Hearst. But it comes at an embarrassing time for Hearst Television President David Barrett: Just two weeks ago he told a congressional committee that blackouts hurt consumers — although he says that broadcasters are not to blame for rising pay TV prices. The impasse could hit ABC especially hard: Hearst provides the network’s programming to Time Warner Cable in cities including Boston; Portland, Maine; Kansas City; Omaha; Pittsburgh; and Honolulu. Hearst also has affiliates for NBC (Cincinnati; Winston-Salem; Orlando; and Burlington, Vt.), CBS (Louisville), and CW (Kansas City and Orlando).