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Santa Clarita viewers could lose 16 channels

Warner Cable, Viacom wrestling over broadcast fees

Posted: December 31, 2008 11:15 a.m.
Updated: December 31, 2008 11:52 a.m.
By Michelle Lovato
Signal Staff Writer

Viacom might drop some of Santa Clarita's favorite programming at midnight tonight if Time Warner Cable does not agree to pay the additional $39 million Viacom demands for program delivery, said Patricia Fregos-Cox, West Coast Regional Manager, Time Warner Cable.

In all, 16 programs and roughly 30,000 Santa Clarita customers are in limbo.

"This is $39 million on top of the hundreds of millions we pay to Viacom every year," Fregos-Cox said. "We find it to be outrageous, especially considering the current economic conditions. For them to ask for additional fees at this level is something we simply can't abide with."

Viacom spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew disputed the figure, saying Viacom requested an increase in the very low double-digit percentage range, the Associated Press reported.

The increases would cost an extra 23 cents a month per subscriber, McAndrew said. Americans spend a fifth of their TV time watching Viacom shows but its fees make up less than 2.5 percent of the Time Warner cable bill, Viacom officials said.

"We make this request because Time Warner Cable has so greatly undervalued our channels for so long," Viacom officials said. "Ultimately, however, if Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV and the rest of our programming is discontinued - over less than a penny per day - we believe viewers will see this behavior by their cable company as outrageous," Viacom said.

The Western Region, which encompasses Southern California has roughly 2 million viewers, she said.
Fregos-Cox said Viacom began encouraging Time Warner Cable customers via its Web site to complain to the cable company yesterday. But Fregos-Cox said Viacom is the mega-company holding the ball and will be responsible for an ultimate increase.

"We will continue to negotiate right up until the last minute and beyond," Fregos-Cox said.
Viacom has the power to grant an extension to Time Warner for anywhere from a day to a year, she said.

If a negotiation cannot be reached, Fregos-Cox said Time Warner will issue credit to customers who lose programming they now pay extra to receive. Time-Warner officials are considering replacing the lost channels with alternative networks, Fregos-Cox said.

Kevin Tonoian, city technology services manager, said the City does not maintain a franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner Cable is regulated by the State Public Utilities Commission, he said

Customers who call the city's office will be re-directed to Time Warner Cable, he said.

(The Associated Press contributed to the report.)


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