Time Warner Cable announced Friday that Sinclair Broadcast Group had agreed to extend contract negotiations through Jan. 14, so the cable company’s Maine customers will continue to receive CBS network programming via WGME-TV (Channel 13) for at least two more weeks.
Sinclair had been threatening in regular television advertisements that it would stop providing WGME to Time Warner customers if the two companies failed to reach an agreement by midnight Dec. 31.
Earlier Friday, Time Warner announced that it had made arrangements to carry CBS programming from other network affiliates not owned by Sinclair if the contract remained unresolved and the broadcaster pulled its signal at midnight.
Under that scenario, Time Warner would have continued providing regular CBS programming to its customers, including Sunday’s New England Patriots football game, on the same channel occupied by WGME, according to Andrew Russell, a Time Warner Cable spokesman in Maine.
However, viewers would lose locally produced programs, such as the local news. Syndicated shows such as “Seinfeld” could move to a different time.
Sinclair officials couldn’t be reached for comment Friday night at the company’s headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md.
On Tuesday, Sinclair said it was no longer negotiating with Time Warner, after the cable company rejected an offer of a monthly fee increase of 10 cents per subscriber. That’s the same rate Sinclair said it has negotiated with other cable companies this year.
Time Warner Cable officials based in New York said extending negotiations would allow their customers to continue receiving all 33 Sinclair stations that are the subject of these contract talks.
Time Warner officials said discussions between the parties had taken place as recently as Friday morning.
Time Warner made arrangements with other CBS affiliates in part to quell the worries of Patriots fans, some of whom had called electronics and television dealers in recent days, looking to buy digital antennas to view the game over the air.
Broadcast companies used to let cable providers carry their channels for free and made money on advertising. The recession caused some advertisers to cut spending, so broadcasters are trying to charge cable operators higher fees.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at: [email protected]