Sinclair deal is reported

The Baltimore Sun

Time Warner Cable reported last night that it had reached an agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. that allows the cable provider to continue carrying Sinclair-owned local network affiliates on its systems.

Details of the agreement were not released. But in a programming notice posted on a Time Warner Web site for its mid-Ohio division, which includes Columbus, the cable company said it reached a three-year agreement with Hunt Valley-based Sinclair "for continued carriage of Sinclair-owned stations in former Adelphia [Communications Corp.] areas."

Without the agreement, Time Warner's rights to retransmit signals of 40 stations owned by Sinclair in markets including Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y., and parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Maine and West Virginia would have expired at midnight yesterday.

The deal averted a service interruption that would have affected 1 million cable subscribers. It marks the latest development in a growing dispute between cable companies and broadcasters over how much cable systems should pay to carry local stations that they had received for free in the past. Traditionally, broadcasters have received other concessions, such as advertising time, for their signals.

A similar dispute involving Sinclair and Mediacom Communications Corp. has left 700,000 subscribers in the Midwest and South without major network programming on their cable systems since Jan. 6. Sinclair blocked 22 stations from airing on Mediacom cable systems in 13 states after negotiations failed on a price to carry the local network affiliates.

Meanwhile, Sinclair is also negotiating with Comcast Corp., which could affect Baltimore viewers in March by limiting access to Fox and other local networks on Comcast's cable systems if a deal is not reached. It is the nation's largest cable company with more than 24 million subscribers.

Last night's deadline was the second extension offered to Time Warner during the negotiations.

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