A federal judge has brushed aside a request that could have impacted Time Warner Cable’s leverage in carriage negotiations with local stations. The Texas judge denied Nexstar Broadcasting’s request for a preliminary injunction, which could have prevented Time Warner Cable from transporting out-of-market signals to avoid blackouts.
The judge found that a 2009 contract between Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Nexstar allows for TWC to transmit signals into so-called “distant markets.”
In his order, where he also rejected a Nexstar request for a temporary restraining order, Judge Jorge A. Solis concluded that the contract does not have “limiting language” on TWC to, say, bring the feed of a Wilkes-Barre, Pa. station into Greensboro, N.C.
The judge wrote the contract “does not limit (TWC’s) abilities to restransmit the signals to any particular region.”
The court found there is no indication Nexstar would prevail on allegations TWC is guilty of breach of contract and copyright infringement.
TWC has used the station importation opportunity to prevent blackouts of local stations during carriage standoffs.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the judge’s denial of Nexstar’s requests.
The case has roots in a July stand-off between the Hearst station group and Time Warner Cable (TWC). With Hearst and TWC unable to reach a deal and blackouts looming, TWC opted to deliver outside Nexstar stations into the likes of Greensboro, N.C. and Cincinnati.
So, as TWC and Hearst negotiated, some Greensboro residents could continue to watch NBC in prime time via a Nexstar station in Wilkes Barre, Pa. In, Cincinnati some denizens had the network via a Terre Haute, Ind. station.
The ability to import Nexstar signals to prevent blackouts of NBC or CBS prime-time and sports programming might give TWC a leg up when it battles station groups in carriage disputes -- at least until the Nexstar deal expires in 2014. TWC has gone with an importation approach twice.
TWC believes language in the 2009 contract giving it “nonexclusive restransmision” rights helps it remain on safe ground.