Time Warner Cable and Hearst Reach a Deal

Retrans spat produced lawsuit

Hearst and Time Warner Cable have reached an agreement regarding the 16 stations in 14 markets blacked out of TWC's cable package as the two companies tried to come to an agreement over a fair price to retransmit those stations' signals.

Retrans has been a thorny issue in recent years as carriage agreements come up for renewal after major changes in the marketplace, such as a plethora of over-the-top content providers like Netflix and Hulu, along with the nationwide changeover from analog broadcast signals to digital, which renders broadcast TV unwatchable in many urban areas.

This particular carriage spat has had one important wrinkle: when the previous agreement expired, TWC replaced Hearst's signals with repurposed signals from Nexstar stations in several markets where TWC believed its license with Nexstar allowed it to do so. Nexstar disagreed and filed a lawsuit against the cable operator on Monday. There's no word as of yet on the current status of the suit—part of the suit was a restraining order, which no longer applies, but the aggreived station owner is also seeking damages.

Hearst issued a statement on Thursday evening calling the end of the dispute a victory for localism. “We  appreciate the support and patience of our viewers, advertisers and local communities served by our stations, and we regret the inconvenience they’ve experienced over the past 10 days,” wrote Hearst president & CEO David Barrett. “This process has been an important step to [e]nsure the ongoing vitality of our local TV service in communities across the country.”

UPDATE: Time Warner has issued a slightly less genteel statement on the agreement. "We have reached a long-term agreement with Hearst Television and our customers can expect their signals to be restored to our cable systems shortly," the cable operator said. "We thank our customers for their patience and their willingness to stick with us through another unnecessary broadcaster blackout."

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