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Cable company negotiating with programmers

| January 2, 2007 11:00 PM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Chuck Resch is irritated.

For nearly three weeks, the 63-year-old Libby man has not been able to watch NFL football on the FOX network. Time Warner Cable, which serves 2,250 customers in Libby, Troy and Bonners Ferry, Idaho, lost the programming on Dec. 15 when it couldn't reach a new agreement with affiliate KAYU in Spokane, Wash.

For now, Turner Classic Movies fills that slot.

"I'm a sports fan," said Resch, who for 32 years worked for Champion in Libby. "Right now they're showing older movies on that channel. It's not sports. It's not live."

Michael Miller, general manager for the local Time Warner Cable's National Division, said negotiations with KAYU continue.

"We're also looking at the possibility of another Fox affiliate station," Miller said. "Our goal is to get the original KAYU back. We continue to negotiate."

Customers are complaining.

"They're not able to watch football," Miller said. "We had some cancel and some said they will wait. It's an issue we're trying to resolve while trying to keep rates down."

Time Warner also faces losing additional programming. According to a legal notice submitted to The Western News, agreements have not been reached with Flix, HGTV, Showtime, Showtime Extreme, Showtime FamilyZone, Showtime Next, Showtime Showcase, Showtime Too, Showtime Women, TMC and TMC Extra.

"It's more or less a courtesy and a legal issue," Miller said about the notice.

"We are required to give notice, but they are working feverishly to avoid that," added Scott Haley, with T2 Media in Dallas, Texas.

T2 Media, which provided The Western News with the legal notice, is an independent media agency specializing in strategic media planning, negotiating and buying.

In the notice, Time Warner explains agreements with programmers expire from time to time.

"We are usually able to obtain renewals or extensions of such agreements and carriage of programming services is discontinued only in rare circumstances," according to the legal notice.

Miller couldn't speculate on the likelihood of Time Warner reaching agreements.

"That is something a little beyond my reach, but I'm sure if they were to go down, they would have alternate programming in mind, but, again, the main focus is to reach agreements," Miller said.

Getting back FOX would please Resch.

"I basically have TV to watch sports," he said. They always have one (NFL) game every weekend and two every other weekend."

"I guess I don't understand when it's a major network why it's cable," Resch continued. "They're something wrong in the system when they have the option of dropping. I thought the media was supposed to be for the public and no big money games behind the scene."

Time Warner currently charges $23 a month for 20 basic channels and $25 for 58 channels. Rates were last increased one year ago April, Miller said.