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Time Warner Cable May Lose Sinclair Stations Amid Spat

Time Warner Cable May Lose Sinclair Stations Amid Spat
Time Warner Cable Inc. trucks stand in the East Village neighborhood of New York. Photographer: Jonathan Fickies/Bloomberg

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Time Warner Cable Inc., locked in a dispute over fees with Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., rejected a proposal by the TV-station operator, leading to a possible blackout at the end of the year.

Time Warner Cable rejected an offer that would raise fees an average of 10 cents per subscriber, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair said today in a statement. Time Warner Cable refused to make a counteroffer, meaning Sinclair stations may not be carried on the second-largest U.S. cable company’s systems after Dec. 31, the broadcaster said.

The fallout is the latest in several negotiations between content providers and pay-TV operators. A blackout would affect 33 stations reaching more than 5 million Time Warner Cable customers and block channels such as Fox and ABC in Columbus, Ohio, and CBS in Portland, Maine, Sinclair said.

Time Warner Cable remains willing to negotiate a “reasonable agreement” and has no intention of declaring talks to be over even if Sinclair pulls its signals Dec. 31, according to an e-mailed statement from the New York-based cable carrier.

“I don’t know why Time Warner bothers,” Ed Atorino, an analyst at Benchmark Co. LLC in New York, said in a phone interview. “Sinclair will shut off its signals and eventually force Time Warner to come to some decision.”

In October, News Corp. blocked Fox programs from Cablevision Systems Corp. customers for two weeks as the companies tried to reach a deal on fees. Disputes over fees have caused at least seven blackouts of cable and broadcast channels this year, the most in more than in a decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Time Warner Cable rose 9 cents to $66.06 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Sinclair dropped 16 cents to $8.16 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katie Hoffmann in New York at khoffmann4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net

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