Time Warner Cable’s dispute with WMTW’s owner Hearst Television over a fee charged to cable companies by the stations that provide programming may inconvenience the cable firm’s customers for a time. But it also illustrates the competitive pressures weighing on the industry.

Neither Time Warner Cable nor WMTW-TV (Channel 8), the regional ABC affiliate, will discuss the financial details of their dispute.

Typically, channels pay cable firms a per-subscriber fee ranging from under $1 for less-viewed channels to several dollars per head for highly popular channels such as ESPN.

Those fees are income for the content providers, which occasionally can be seen by the cable compainies as driving too hard a bargain.

And when negotiations break down, cable firms are fully capable of pulling the plug, as Time Warner has for Channel 8, even though they at least implicitly promised customers a full range of network coverage.

Fans of ABC shows in Portland have been forced either to use a digital antenna or find another provider, perhaps by switching to satellite-dish firms happy to add clients.

But that’s not the only option. Internet streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are available, as are websites for individual programs.

Letting too many channels “go dark” too often is no longer something once-captive customers have to endure.


Correction: This editorial was revised at 12:40 p.m., July 19, 2012, to state that Time Warner Cable’s dispute with WMTW’s owner Hearst Television is over a fee charged to cable companies by the stations that provide programming.