Time Warner Cable subscribers in the Milwaukee area have been missing a key local part of their cable lineup for nearly a month now.
A dispute over money has meant that Channel 4 – WTMJ – owned by Journal Broadcast Group – is not being carried by the cable company. For a while, there was nothing on the station’s position on the dial, but suddenly, last week, channel surfers who landed on Channel 4 got to see the Game Show Network.
Rich Kirchen has been writing about the dispute for the Business Journal of Milwaukee, and he says Time Warner is getting the brunt of the negative publicity.
"I think most people probably blame both, but certainly the cable company has been the company you’ve loved to hate for decades, so there might be a little PR disadvantage there," he says.
But Kirchen says that doesn't mean WTMJ isn't contributing to the showdown. A cable company like Time Warner has to debate how much money to pay to carry a station, Kirchen says, which is becoming more expensive. That's because companies like Journal Broadcast Group face declining revenues and competition from digital - and are turning to the cable companies for help.
"Our (WTMJ's) audience keeps shrinking, there aren't nearly as many people watching Channel 4 or NBC as there were 10, 20, 30 years ago, so we need to get revenue from somewhere else, so we're going to ask the cable company - we're going to tell the cable company, 'We need more money from you,'" he says.
Kirchen is a senior reporter for the Business Journal.