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ACA Responds To Disney-Time Warner Cable Agreement

Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Cable recently reached a long-term program carriage agreement for Disney-owned ABC TV stations, marquee cable channels such as ESPN and online products such as ESPN3.com.

Though neither side disclosed financial details, published reports claimed Disney won a per-subscriber retransmission consent fee in the range of 40 cents to 50 cents a month for each ABC TV station.

American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued a statement partly in response to comments by some that the Disney-Time Warner Cable accord was indicative of a smooth-functioning market that is benefiting consumers.

"While ACA is glad customers ultimately didn't lose signals in the Time Warner Cable-Disney matter, reforming the broken retransmission consent process to protect the public from price-gouging broadcasters is far more important than the outcome of a single negotiation," Polka said.

Polka reiterated that ACA members in many cases are put at a disadvantage by federal rules that restrict choice in the selection of TV stations to provide cable consumers.

"Small and medium-sized cable operators are paying excessive fees for retransmission consent because broadcasters are able to exploit federal regulations to their advantage. Claiming the system works because a deal got done or because no one complained is akin to a con artist saying extortion works because no one called the police," Polka said.

That situation allowed Disney on March 7 to pull its ABC signal from about 3 million cable homes served by Cablevision Systems Corp. in the New York City region, and Disney didn't restore the signal until 14 minutes into that evening's Academy Awards show broadcast on the ABC network.

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