PORTLAND — More than 100,000 Time Warner cable subscribers lost the ability to watch Portland ABC station WMTW (Ch. 8) early today, due to a contract dispute between the cable provider and the TV station’s owner.

As of 10:15 a.m., the station was still being blacked out on Time Warner cable in southern Maine, and neither the station nor the cable company could say exactly when the dispute might be resolved. 
The dispute does not affect WMTW being carried by other cable companies in Maine.

Both WMTW and Time Warner issued on-line statements about the contract dispute – which is a common occurrence between station owners and cable providers – and gave differing views of who caused the blackout.

A statement on Time Warner’s website said that Hearst  “chose to black out their signals from our customers rather than continue negotiations, despite their CEO saying just two weeks ago that broadcaster blackouts are unfair to consumers.”

The statement went on to say that Time Warner has reached “hundreds” of agreements with other broadcasters without blackouts but that Hearst was demanding a nearly 300 percent increase in the compensation Time Warner pays to Hearst.

. But the statement also said Time Warner officials were “hopeful” the dispute would be resolved “shortly.”

The statement on WMTW’s web site said the blackout occurred despite  “our best efforts to reach a new carriage agreement.”

The station’s statement was not as optimistic as Time Warner’s about a quick settlement, stating: “….unless there is a change in Time Warner’s position, carriage of WMTW will no longer be available to you on Time Warner systems.”

WMTW’s web site mentions DIRECTV and DISH Network as alternative ways of watching WMTW’s local and ABC programming, and provides phone numbers for both those companies.

Both Time Warner and WMTW reminded consumers they can still use an over-the-air TV antenna and tuner to get WMTW. Time Warner suggested people can watch ABC programming on line at abc.com.
Time Warner’s statement also said the cable provider would still be able to carry ABC network programming to Maine customers during this blackout, but from an affiliate station in Utica, New York.

The statement did not say what channel that programming would be on.

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