Marquette Wire

TWC and WTMJ make progress in negotiations, no deal in sight

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Discussions between Time Warner Cable and Journal Broadcast Group spilled into a second month of deliberations following a contract lapse, continuing the blackout of Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV (Channel 4).

The two sides are still quarreling about fees paid by Time Warner Cable to WTMJ and other channels owned by Journal Broadcast Group. Once an agreement is made, the transmission of the station’s programming will continue.

Time Warner is the cable provider for a majority of Marquette students on campus. WTMJ, which also broadcasts NBC’s national programs, has been blacked out for Time Warner customers in the Milwaukee area since July 25.

Both sides are in negotiations, but Mike Hogan, a spokesman at Time Warner Cable, said these prior meetings have not indicated much progress.

“Journal (Broadcast Group) continues to propose deals that are not best in the interest of our customers,” Hogan said in an email. “We continue to take a firm stand for our customers against a media company like Journal who uses all its TV stations, radio outlets and newspapers to confuse customers and distort this dispute.”

Although he couldn’t reveal any details on the negotiations, Hogan said viewers are unhappy with Journal Broadcast Group for withholding programming. He said that Time Warner Cable tried to solve this problem by providing free antennas and primetime on demand, along with other strategies.

Hogan said Time Warner Cable will not give in to Journal Broadcast Group’s demands because of what it could mean for other cable providers in the future.

“If we give into Journal (Brodcast Group) and its outrageous increase, other stations will look for the same and even more,” Hogan said. “These dramatic increases have to stop. If Journal got its way, the next station would ask for more.”

Since the Time Warner and Journal Broadcast Group feud, two new cable channels emerged. Fox Sports 1, which launched on Aug. 17, is Fox’s national answer to ESPN and NBC Sports. FXX, which developed as a brother channel to FX, debuted Sept. 2 and televises original FX shows such as “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and “The League.”

However, the basic television package provided to Marquette students living in residence halls and off-campus locations does not include these two channels. The only way to receive the channels on campus is to upgrade the cable bundle.

While FXX focuses on televising popular comedies and dramas, Fox Sports 1 is more connected to Marquette. The network and the reformed Big East conference agreed on a 12-year contract in March that is slated to televise more than 100 men’s college basketball games this season. Marquette’s men’s basketball team will play on the channel 21 times this season and the women’s team just once. Fox Sports 1 also possesses the rights to the Big East men’s and women’s tournaments.

In addition to being displeased with Time Warner Cable and Journal Broadcast Group’s dispute, D.J. Vogt, a junior in the College of Communication, said he is just as upset that Fox Sports 1 is not part of campus programming yet.

“I feel it takes away from our ability to be fanatics,” Vogt said. “We don’t have the option to keep up with the teams around the conference, which is especially frustrating because there are many new teams that we don’t know much about.”

Questions regarding the brand new networks at Marquette remain, but Time Warner Cable and Journal Broadcast Group are making progress in ending the blackout.

“We are in active discussions with Journal (Broadcast Group), and we’re working hard to reach a fair agreement to restore its stations to our lineups,” Hogan said. “In fact, we met for the very first time last week with actual Journal employees, instead of only their third party consultants.”

Hogan said Time Warner Cable maintains that its first priority is its customers.

“We want this to be resolved and restore NBC programming for our customers, but it has to be a fair deal,” Hogan said. “Asking for the increase they propose is not reasonable, it is not fair for customers and it is not acceptable.”

Time Warner Cable settled a similar dispute with CBS Corp. and Bright House Networks Sept. 2, after Milwaukee’s CBS affiliate was blacked out for a month. Other Journal Broadcast Group owned NBC affiliates are blacked out in Green Bay and Palm Springs, Calif.

Representatives at WTMJ and Journal Broadcast Group did not respond to interview requests for this story.

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