PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Time Warner Cable subscribers in Southern Maine who tried to watch ABC shows today may have been surprised to find that the local ABC station is currently off of cable.
The parent company of WMTW (Channel 8) is in a contract dispute with Time Warner. And now Hearst Television is not allowing Time Warner to re-transmit any of its broadcast station's signals, including Channel 8.
Cable companies and other pay TV companies pay broadcasters a fee to re-transmit the broadcast signal to their customers. The last 3-year contract between Time Warner and Hearst Television has expired, and Hearst has been asking Time Warner for more money.
Because the two sides aren't agreeing on the fee, Hearst has pulled the WMTW signal from Time Warner. The dispute also affects other Hearst Stations including WMUR in New Hampshire and WCVB in Boston.
But Mainers are feeling the biggest impact because a bigger percentage of viewers here watch TV on cable.
According to Channel 8's General Manager, Dave Abel, about 230,000 people in this television market watch TV through Time Warner. Compare that with the 160,000-170,000 people who get TV other ways.
Abel said Hearst is simply asking for a reasonable amount of money for its signal. He said, "We have negotiated in good faith. We have gone to the table many times and have tried to compromise with Time Warner, but they have chosen not to work with us, not to negotiate with us."
Time Warner argues that Hearst is asking for way too much money.
In a statement, Time Warner Cable Communications Manager Andrew Russell wrote, "...Hearst's demand for a nearly 300% increase is way out of line. That kind of outrageous increase is unfair to our customers and unsustainable for our business."
Abel denies that the increase Hearst is asking for is 300 percent. He says that number is not even close, though he will not say what the company is asking for.
WMTW-TV is still available via antenna, or with a satellite subscription.
So how can you watch ABC shows? Here are some online alternatives.
You can find most network programming on ABC's website, ABC.go.com -- pretty much everything the network has aired in the last week or will air this week will be there. It's free -- but you will have to sit through a few commercials. Check out the schedule to see what's posted when -- and remember, you won't be able to see any shows until AFTER they have aired on TV.
ABC also has a pretty good app for iPhone and iPad but they are limited in the Android world. The Android app store only shows one for ABC news and then some more specifically for certain TV shows. Not all apps will allow you to watch full episodes.
The other option is Hulu.com -- This is where many networks have come together to post their content. There is a paid side to Hulu called Hulu Plus. The regular Hulu is free, but also limited. Again, you have to wait until after the show has aired then it will most likely be available online.
WMTW tells us they will be streaming their local newscasts in their website, but syndicated shows, there really aren't a lot of options. Ellen will post certain clips on her website or on her YouTube page, but most others don't post anything other than preview clips.