Nexstar Sues Time Warner Cable Over Imported Stations

Says TWC did not have permission to use signals

Nexstar Broadcasting wasted no time in taking legal steps to stop Time Warner Cable from importing three of the TV group's stations to replace six of the Hearst TV stations the cable company was forced to black out when retransmission negotiations broke down.

Nexstar sued Time Warner in U.S. District Court, northern district of Texas, yesterday, alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract for importing its TV stations without permission. Nexstar is seeking a temporary restraining order and other injunctive relief.

Hearst's 13 stations in 11 markets were forced off Time Warner Cable's systems in markets such as Portland, Maine, Kansas City and Cincinnati at midnight July 9 after negotiations over carriage fees failed. Time Warner turned around and imported Nexstar signals from other markets outside its cable systems to provide about half of its subscribers access to network programming. Nexstar cried foul.

By the end of the week, Nexstar filed an emergency petition with the Federal Communications Commission, charging Time Warner was in clear violation of the Federal Communications Act and the FCC's rules governing carriage changes on the system's lineup. The TV group asked for an immediate injunction prohibiting Time Warner from carrying the stations and asked the agency to sanction Time Warner's "repeated and willful violation of federal law."

In an emailed statement, Time Warner said the company is "fully authorized" by its retransmission agreement with Nexstar to pick up the stations. "We are disappointed that Nexstar is working to assist and expand Hearst's leverage against us and our customers by bringing this suit. We are confident that we are operating within our rights and the law and will continue to fight for our customers against this aggressive and coercive broadcaster behavior," the company said.

Hearst and Time Warner Cable seem no closer to a new retransmission agreement. A spokesman was unable to provide an update on the negotiations with Time Warner Cable. TWC had no comment.