A close call for New Year’s

Published 10:49 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Charter Cable subscribers who are fans of “Scrubs,” “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” won’t have to miss their favorite shows, after all, thanks to a tentative agreement between the cable provider and WVEC-TV13. The Norfolk-based ABC affiliate announced on Tuesday that it had reached an accord with Charter regarding carriage of the television station’s signal.

The companies were at odds over WVEC’s demand for a new payment of 30 cents per month per Charter subscriber. Such payments are somewhat common in the cable industry. ESPN, for example, demands and gets $3.65 a month per subscriber, according to WVEC officials. Charter’s position on the matter has been unclear, as company officials haven’t returned a News-Herald reporter’s phone calls or e-mails for a week.

Pulling the plug on WVEC would have had the greatest impact in Suffolk, where most of Charter’s local subscribers are located. Thousands of customers in the city of Franklin also would have lost the signal. People in both cities, however, still could have picked up their ABC shows over the air or on satellite television.

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From the Dec. 19 announcement that WVEC would cut off its signal to Charter subscribers, it seemed pretty clear that the companies would reach some agreement that would keep the station on the air in Suffolk and the surrounding environs. It’s a safe bet that there aren’t many cable companies in the nation that don’t carry the signals of one of the Big Three networks.

Still, it may have been more than just a smart negotiating tactic for WVEC’s general manager to announce that the company would stop airing programs on Charter on Dec. 31. Maybe the thought of missing the last half of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was just too much for area Charter subscribers to bear, causing them to raise their voices in protest. Nothing beats getting a little help from your friends in the midst of tense contract negotiations.