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In need of a big fix


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POSTED: Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bart Simpson and the Sugar Bowl football game would not disappear from the TVs of Time Warner Cable subscribers in Hawaii if a dispute over programming fees is not resolved today; however, that could be small consolation for foodie viewers who cannot get their Food Network fix.

Subscribers in New York and Los Angeles would be hit harder than the Hawaii market if Time Warner does not agree to massive price increases requested by Fox television network and programming gets pulled. However, some 415,000 Hawaii viewers could lose the Food Network, Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket, FX, Fuel, Speed Channel, Fox Reality Channel, Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Espanol if agreement is not reached by tonight, said Alan Pollock, Oceanic Time Warner Cable's vice president of marketing.

“;Fortunately for Hawaii, we aren't as badly affected as everyone else,”; Pollock said. “;Fox doesn't own the KHON affiliate and we had already come to an agreement with them.”;

KHON-TV, which is owned by New Vision Television, would not be interrupted, said Joe McNamara, KHON's president and general manager.

“;For us, it will be business as usual,”; McNamara said. “;Their deal is separate from ours.”;

               

     

 

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“;Fortunately for Hawaii, we aren't as badly affected as everyone else. Fox doesn't own the KHON affiliate and we had already come to an agreement with them.”;

       

Alan Pollock

       

Oceanic Time Warner Cable's vice president of marketing

       

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Only a small amount of Hawaii viewers will be impacted since the Fox Broadcast still will be intact, Pollock said, but added that the company is concerned about losing the Food Network, which offers popular programs such as “;Iron Chef America,”; “;Barefoot Contessa”; and “;Ace of Cakes.”;

Hawaii subscribers might be particularly peeved if they miss Iron Chef America's Super Chef Battle at the White House, which is slated to air Sunday night. First lady Michelle Obama has challenged Iron chefs Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse to create a meal using White House garden produce. The two will battle against White House chef Cristeta Comerford and Bobby Flay.

As tonight's 7:00 p.m. HST deadline approaches, the Associated Press reported that Time Warner Cable offered to submit to arbitration that could leave the Fox network and some of its cable TV channels on the lineup for millions of subscribers. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has pleaded for both sides to agree to uninterrupted television for football fans “;through the college bowl season,”; but the AP reported that an executive at Fox owner News Corp. indicated a signal interruption was likely and had rejected arbitration.

If the programs are pulled off the air, Hawaii viewers and advertisers would be inconvenienced and it would hurt Oceanic's bottom line, Pollock said.

“;We've got our customer service reps on standby for overtime during the holiday,”; he said. “;We have had very few calls, but once they turn on the Food Network and it's dark, they'll call.”;

If the station goes dark, viewers will be directed to other stations that offer similar programing, Pollock said. The corporate office also is working on developing a prorated refund program.

“;However, Hawaii won't get as big of a refund since our broadcast station isn't affected,”; he said.

The current dispute is not the only time a major broadcaster has threatened to go dark on a cable TV operator. Just last year, Viacom Inc. threatened to pull Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and other channels from Time Warner Cable; however, a last-minute deal saved the day.

Nearly a decade ago, the Walt Disney Co. forced Time Warner to pull signals from 10 ABC stations for a day during a similar dispute, which was resolved later that month.

“;Normally they work things out,”; Derek Baine, a senior analyst at SNL Kagan in Monterey, Calif., told AP. “;But it's very hostile and it's very ugly.”;

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.