After Settling Retrans Fight, WTMJ Not Channel Four Anymore

By Kevin Eck Comment

tmj_twcLast week WTMJ and Time Warner Cable settled a nearly two-month long battle over retransmission fees. While Time Warner Cable customers can watch NBC programming again, they can’t watch it on channel 4 anymore.

The Milwaukee station that markets itself as “Today’s TMJ4” was moved two slots down to channel 2 on the standard definition tier but stayed at channel 1004 on HD. TWC added the “Game Show Network” to SD channel 4.

WTMJ executive vice president Steve Wexler told TVSpy, while the move may have initially confused TWC customers, “it’s clear viewers have made the adjustment, as we’ve seen audience levels bounce back quickly.”

So why the move? Mike Pedelty, spokesperson for Time Warner Cable told the Milwaukee Business Journal his company gets to decide where stations air since they own the space.

While the move may seem confusing to consumers, one look at a cable bill will tell them why it happened. If you want more, you have to pay for more.

There are two avenues stations can travel when dealing with cable or satellite providers: the station can elect to go the must-carry route or it can look for a retransmission agreement. If a station decides to go with must-carry it gets no compensation for its programming, but will air on its regular channel. However, once the station or station ownership group decides its programming is worth some money, it steps into the topsy-turvy world of retransmission agreements where everything, including where the stations sits on the dial is up for negotiation.

The MBJ said the move down the dial irked WTMJ parent company executives. But Wexler told them, “We could’ve kept debating that — they wanted us to buy it back. This (blackout) was a great distraction ultimately for the viewers, so we made the accommodation.”

And while technically, WTMJ didn’t have to “buy back” channel 4, it may have had to give up some revenue in order to stay there. Wexler told TVSpy, “Obviously it’s not ideal, but at the end of the day, it was more important to be paid fairly for our programming, which we accomplished, and restore our programming for our viewers.”