Sunday, June 19, 2011

Is round two of Time Warner vs. KXAN on the horizon?

Three years ago, Time Warner Cable and LIN TV (owners of KXAN) had, you might recall, a little tiff which resulted in KXAN, Austin's NBC affiliate, disappearing from channel 4 on Time Warner Cable for almost a month, as documented here, here, and here.  (Also note that I correctly predicted, to the day, the date on which KXAN would make its return to the Time Warner lineup.)

You would think this article would not have to be written, but:  here we go again.

Time Warner Cable, at least, is preparing for yet another disappearance of KXAN from its lineup (apparently the previous agreement was for three years or so).  Its current document of future and/or potential channel changes mentions several channels, broadcast and cable, whose agreements with Time Warner are due to expire "soon".  (Soon is relative, judging by how long some of these channels appear in these lists.)  And appearing prominently in this list is KXAN, which is now joined by its sister station, KBVO (which is also owned by LIN TV).  KBVO, for the uninitiated, is the MyNetwork TV affiliate for Austin; however, it inexplicably can only be found on channel 1525 (which, you might guess, is not in the basic tier, which is what we get at the Snowed household).  But regardless of in which tier these channels are, they are listed as possibly disappearing in the (somewhat) near future.

Now, most channels seen on this list get an agreement in place well before the deadline; it's only those companies and channels that want to get a better deal that end up causing standoffs like the one KXAN and Time Warner had.  (Or, more recently, KVUE and Time Warner, which you perhaps may not remember because it was worked out at the eleventh hour.)

No, what makes me think that the KXAN/KBVO situation is more dire than most of these expiring agreements is that Time Warner already has a message ready to throw up on the missing channels once the signals are removed.  Currently, since KXAN and KBVO aren't going anywhere anytime soon, Time Warner is showing this agreement on channels that don't actually exist.  See, channels 11 and 16 are two of the three community access channels; they went digital-only almost a year ago.  So I, with my basic cable, shouldn't be getting anything on these channels, one would think.  However, for a while Time Warner helpfully had a static image with a message saying that the channels had moved to digital-only and should I wish to upgrade...

Well, now on these two channels, this message, which can apparently only be seen by those without a digital converter, appears:

The message reads, "KXAN and KVBO (sic) have required that we stop carrying them.  While we work to bring their channels back, please refer to to find alternate sources for the shows you're missing."

Is Time Warner tipping its hand with this message?  It certainly appears that way to me.  I guess we'll find out in a few months.

But if this has a chance of happening, ask yourself:  is this battle worth fighting a second time?

Update:  Thanks for the Facebook link love, Republic of Austin!

Update 2:  Apparently Time Warner reads my blog...the "KXAN and KVBO..." message that I saw has suddenly disappeared from channels 11 and 16.