Thursday July 12, 2012

PITTSFIELD - Time Warner Cable subscribers in Berkshire County won't be able to watch network television from Boston for the foreseeable future.

Hearst Television pulled its broadcast signal for WCVB-TV Channel 5 in Boston from Time Warner Cable at midnight on Monday due to a dispute between the two companies over new broadcast fees.

An ABC affiliate, WCVB is the only Boston- based network station that Time Warner Cable carries in the Berkshires. According to Time Warner Cable spokesman Andrew Russell, Hearst had been demanding a 300 percent fee increase to continue carrying its stations, which the company believes is unfair to its subscribers.

Hearst TV President David Barrett told Variety on Tuesday that Time Warner "is seeking a significant discount of marketbased fees that is neither fair or reasonable." Russell said the company remains open to negotiating the fee increase with Hearst, but declined to provide details.

"We're not going to get into specifics in the negotiations, or negotiate in public," Russell said. "We stand ready to resume negotiations and hope that it will be returned to the lineup. " Unfortunately, these disputes have become more common over the years," he said. "Advertising dollars are declining and they want cable companies to make up the difference."

New York City-based Hearst, which owns 30 television stations across the country, has yanked its broadcast signal from 14 stations nationwide that are carried by Time Warner Cable.


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Eight of those stations are ABC affiliates. Four of those 14 Hearst stations are located in New England, while two others are in upstate New York.

WCVB has the highest percentage of household coverage (2.1 percent) of any of Hearst's 14 eastern region stations, which range from Portland, Maine, to West Palm Beach, Fla., according to the company's website.

In some markets, Time Warner Cable has replaced the blacked out stations with stations from other regions of the country. But Russell said there are no plans to replace WCVB in the Berkshires, because Time Warner Cable also carries WTEN-TV Channel 10, ABC's affiliate in Albany, N.Y. Those seeking state content on Time Warner Cable in the Berkshires can access either New England Cable News Network or WWLP-TV Channel 22 and WSHM-TV Channel 3, which are both located in Springfield.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6224.

On Twitter:@tonydobrow