Sinclair, Time Warner Reach Agreement in Fee Dispute

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. reached an agreement in their dispute over retransmission fees, ensuring uninterrupted service to about 4 million customers.

Their existing agreement will remain in effect until Jan. 21 while the new pact is completed, Sinclair said today in a statement. It affects markets in Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Maine, among other cities.

Barry Faber, general counsel at Sinclair, said the company had no further comment. Time Warner said in a statement it will work to reach a final agreement within a week.

Fee disputes have sparked at least seven blackouts in the past year, the most in more than a decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair is a local station owner affiliated with major TV networks, while Time Warner Cable is the second-largest U.S. cable provider behind Comcast Corp.

Programmers such as Fox and Walt Disney Co.’s ABC have generally held the upper hand in retransmission negotiations.

In October, Fox blocked Cablevision Systems Corp. customers for two weeks as the companies tried to reach a deal, causing 3 million subscribers to miss World Series games. Cablevision agreed to pay what it called an unfair price.

In the Sinclair-Time Warner talks, an earlier cutoff loomed on Jan. 1, before the companies announced a two-week extension. That was extended one more day, until tonight.

Time Warner Cable rose 47 cents to $65.61 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading yesterday. Sinclair fell 7 cents to $8.05 in Nasdaq trading.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Golum in Los Angeles at rgolum@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net; Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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