CONWAY — It may be awhile before cable subscribers get an ABC affiliate in this area, and in the interim they can settle in to enjoy the Hallmark Movie Channel which will replace WMUR (Channel 9) and WMTW (Channel 8) until a contract dispute between Hearst TV and Time Warner Cable is resolved.
Time Warner and Hearst Television have been at a stalemate over a new deal for carrying WMUR and WMTW, the two ABC affiliates serving this area, and other Hearst Television stations across the country. The carriage agreement expired at 11:59 pm on Monday, and TW/Insight subscribers lost channels 8 and 9 after midnight.
"Hearst TV, the owner of this station, has forced us to stop carrying its channel," appears on channels 8 and 9. "Visit www.twcconversation/local for more information."
Andrew Russell, manager of communications for Time Warner in New England, said alternative programing is on the way.
"As promised," he wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon, "here's the information on alternate programming in your area for viewers impacted by Hearst's decision to black out WMUR/WMTW to our customers: Hallmark Movie Channel — this will be available in place of both WMTW/WMUR for customers in Conway, and in place of WMUR for customers in Berlin/Gorham. WUTR-TV (ABC) — Utica, N.Y. affiliate will be available in place of WMTW for customers in Berlin/Gorham.
"These channels are in the process of being added. Customers will be able to view them in the next day or so," he added.
Asked in an exchange of emails with The Daily Sun, if the Uitca, N.Y. ABC affiliate could be turned on in the Mount Washington Valley area so subscribers could get an ABC network, Russell explained that's not possible at this time.
"We exhausted every option for adding another ABC station to the lineup in Conway," he wrote. "Unfortunately, the rules that govern the importing of TV signals from other markets prevented us from doing so. We have done so where those rules currently permit it. We chose Hallmark Movie Channel because we could be confident that its high-quality, family-friendly programming would be appropriate until Hearst's blackout ends."
Cable companies and other pay TV companies pay broadcasters a fee to re-transmit the broadcast signal to their customers. The last three-year contract between Time Warner and Hearst Television has expired, and Hearst has been asking Time Warner for more money. Because the two sides aren't agreeing on the fee, Hearst pulled the WMUR, WMTW and WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston signals.
Alex Jasiukowicz, creative services director, WMUR-TV, sent out the following release updating media Tuesday night on the negotiations with Time Warner.
"Following months of negotiations, the efforts of Hearst Television Inc., parent of WMUR-TV, to achieve a new carriage agreement with Time Warner Cable, as well as for Bright House and Insight, for which Time Warner Cable has negotiating authority, reached an impasse last evening, and, as a result, WMUR-TV is now not being carried by Time Warner Cable systems.
"The channels impacted include carriage of WMUR-TV in both standard and high definition.
"The current carriage agreement expired at midnight June 30, but, to avoid a potential disruption of service and inconvenience to subscribers during the Fourth of July week, Hearst Television granted Time Warner Cable an extension, while negotiations continued, until last evening at midnight."
"Time Warner Cable has terminated negotiations with our company, Hearst Television, for continued carriage of WMUR on Time Warner Cable systems," noted station general manager Jeff Bartlett. "Hearst has successfully concluded more than 150 carriage agreements in recent months with other cable companies with no disruption of service to subscribers. This contrasts with Time Warner's disruptions of service and withdrawal of carriage of local television stations in other cases.
"Time Warner Cable refuses to pay our station a reasonable fee relative to what it pays for other significantly less popular channels," Bartlett added. "Time Warner's characterization of the percentage increase in carriage fees we are seeking is inaccurate. We have sought a reasonable increase consistent with the increased costs we have to pay for our highly valued programming and the carriage fees now paid to us by Time Warner's competitors. Time Warner Cable is seeking a significant discount off market-based fees that is neither fair nor reasonable. In fact, retransmission fees paid to stations are just 7 cents of every dollar of the total carriage fees paid to cable networks, which are less popular than local TV stations, according to recent independent research.
"The fees we are asking from Time Warner are based on the fees we are being paid by other cable companies under our recent deals, which is the real measure—not Time Warner's exaggerated and distorted claims—of the fairness of our proposal," Bartlett continued. "We regret the inconvenience Time Warner Cable has imposed on its subscribers, and we will keep you fully informed of developments. Contrary to Time Warner's claim, we have not 'blacked out' our station, you may continue to receive our station for free, over the air, or by satellite from DIRECTV statewide or DISH in southern New Hampshire, and, where available, from other cable operators."
Viewers can determine the type of antenna needed to receive the signals of Hearst Stations at http://www.antennaweb.org/.
Hearst Television, a national multi-media company, owns and operates 29 local television stations and two local radio stations, serving 30 U.S. cities and reaching approximately 18 percent of U.S. television households. The TV stations broadcast 60 video channels, featuring local and national news, weather, information, sports and entertainment programming, and local community service-oriented programs.
The Hallmark Movie Channel, according to its website (www.hallmarkmoviechannel.com), "is the quintessential 24-hour television destination for family-friendly programming and a leader in the production of original movies. One of the fastest-growing major ad-supported cable networks since its launch in 2001 and reaching over 87 million U.S. homes, Hallmark Channel delivers on a 100 year legacy and a brand promise that resonates with viewers. Hallmark Channel's foundation of original movies is characterized by strong storytelling through compelling themes and vibrant characters. Complementing its movie schedule, Hallmark Channel presents popular television series, including 'The Golden Girls,' 'Cheers,' and 'Who's The Boss'. The channel recently launched an exciting new block of daytime programming from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia."
If the station is connected by this Saturday, viewers can enjoy four hours of "Mister Ed" from 6 to 10 a.m. followed by a 24-hour "Matlock" marathon.