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ABC returning to Time Warner Cable
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Viewers will be able to watch Peter Jennings, Regis Philbin and the rest of the ABC crew again.
The network has agreed to extend negotiations on retransmission until July 15, allowing ABC stations to return to Time Warner cable systems after a 39-hour absence.
The signals returned to some markets almost immediately after the announcement. In Manhattan, for example, cable TV viewers were able by mid-afternoon to tune back in to their favorite soap operas on WABC.
At a news conference earlier Tuesday, Joseph Collins, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable, said the company that day had proposed a five-and-a-half-month extension that would continue transmissions into the fall.
The network responded quickly -- before the news conference was over -- with a counter-offer: It proposed an extension lasting only until July 15. Collins "reluctantly" agreed to the shorter period.
"That's not what we sent them, but I think since what I've been telling you all this afternoon is that our (concern is) customers and their ability to get ABC," he said, the cable operator was agreeing to the terms. "We don't think it's appropriate, and when we hold this stick up again on July 15, I hope you all remember."
ABC responded again, saying it was "gratified that Time Warner is now making the viewers their first priority."
"We are broadcasters, and until yesterday had provided uninterrupted service to all viewers for 47 years," ABC said in a prepared statement. "Wanting to restore service as quickly as possible to those who depend on us, we, too, are willing to compromise."
About 3.5 million cable homes were affected by the removal of seven Disney-owned ABC stations. The affected markets included households in New York; portions of the Los Angeles area; Houston; Flint, Michigan; Philadephia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Fresno, California; and Toledo, Ohio.
Viewers in those markets had two options: Buy rabbit ears for their sets or watch friends' satellite TVs.
The disruption came at the start of the critical May sweeps period. Ratings during this time help determine what prices networks can charge advertisers in the coming months.
Time Warner -- a sister company to CNN.com, a Time Warner Inc. property -- charged that the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC, was to blame for the limited blackout.
"Disney is trying to inappropriately use its ownership of ABC to extract excessive and unreasonable terms for its cable channels -- terms that would add hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for Time Warner Communications and its cable customers," Time Warner said in a message to its Los Angeles subscribers.
Arnold Kleiner, president and general manager of television station of Los Angeles' KABC, did not let Time Warner's statement go unchallenged.
"This is a punitive act, but Time Warner is punishing their own customers," he said. "This blackout is a frightening foreshadowing of the implications of the Time Warner-AOL (America Online) merger."
'Millionaire,' 'Arabian Nights' take hit
The impasse threatened some big shows.
In the next few weeks, ABC is set to air celebrity editions of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," the daytime Emmys, the Kentucky Derby and virtually all of its prime-time season finales.
The blackout affected two hyped shows. The first celebrity "Millionaire" aired Monday night, as did the final installment of ABC's miniseries "Arabian Nights."
Time Warner's contract to carry ABC stations officially ended December 31, 1999, but negotiations to renew that agreement continually stalled over how much Time Warner should pay to carry ABC's programming, as allowed under the 1992 Cable TV Act.
Disney also wanted Time Warner to offer some of its other networks, including the new Toon Disney and the Soap Network. Disney also wanted The Disney Channel, as part of its basic programming instead of paid premium channels.
Time Warner facing Tuesday deadline in dispute with ABC
Time Warner Inc.
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