Not surprisingly, the Walt Disney Co. doesn't agree with a retransmission-consent analysis conducted by Time Warner Cable consultants Charles River Associates that, in turn, was filed by TWC to rebut a study Disney submitted to the FCC.
The divisions between the two sides are simple: Disney, the broadcaster with properties like ABC and ESPN, says that cable companies are pikers who take advantage of broadcasters' valuable product to line their pockets; TWC says it's the opposite, and that broadcasters are causing cable rates to go up because they charge too much and the costs have to be pushed to subscribers.
The FCC is both the ringmaster and the referee of the dispute, which, for now, hasn't gone beyond competing filings. Things could get worse later this summer, though, when Disney's programming deals with Time Warner come up for renewal. The most recent Disney battle with a service provider resulted in Dish Network losing four Mouse HD channels. Earlier this year, a Disney-Cablevision Systems dispute ended only after viewers missed the important opening minutes of the Academy Awards ceremony on ABC.
If you're in the business of reading tea leaves, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has added his opinion that the agency should "think twice before taking any action that may interfere with private contracts regarding the carriage of broadcast programming by multichannel video programming distributors." He made the remarks during a speech to the choir: the Virginia Association of Broadcasters.
To combat all this, Time Warner Cable reportedly spent $1.5 million (chump change when compared to the amounts being tossed about by Comcast and NBCU) to lobby the feds on retrans. It's down a little from the $1.8 million the MSO spent in the fourth quarter but up substantially from the $270,000 it spent at the same time last year.
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