A dispute between Time Warner Cable and WMTW-TV (Channel 8) may inconvenience the cable firm’s customers for a time. But it also illustrates the competitive pressures weighing on the industry.

Neither the local branch of the national cable TV company nor the regional ABC affiliate will discuss the financial details of their dispute, which is about a fee charged to cable companies by the stations that provide programming.

Typically, channels pay cable firms a per-subscriber fee ranging from less than $1 for less-viewed channels to several dollars per head for highly popular channels such as ESPN.

Those fees are income for the cable companies, which occasionally can be seen by the content providers as driving too hard a bargain.

When negotiations break down, cable firms are fully capable of pulling the plug, as Time Warner has for Channel 8, even though they at least implicitly promised customers a full range of network coverage.

Fans of ABC shows in central and southern Maine have been forced either to use a digital antenna or to find another provider, perhaps by switching to satellite-dish firms happy to add clients.

However, that’s not the only option. Internet streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are available, as are websites for individual programs.

Letting too many channels “go dark” too often is no longer something once-captive customers have to endure.

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