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Time Warner, Sinclair OK deal on Fox transmissions

The prison break is still on. Agent Jack Bauer will see another day, and potential pop stars will croon or croak.

The owner of Buffalo's Fox affiliate has announced a deal to keep the TV station and its popular programs on local cable.

The three-year deal ends a dispute that threatened to pull Fox off cable in 300,000 area homes, just as new seasons of "Prison Break," "24" and "American Idol" get under way.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of Fox affiliate WUTV Channel 29 and WNLO Channel 49, said Monday it reached a retransmission agreement with Time Warner Cable, owner of Western New York's largest cable network.

"I think it's a good deal for viewers," Time Warner representative Steve Jaworowski said. "There's no impact on customer bills."

Locally, Time Warner agreed to make room on its local channel lineup for new business and reality-TV channels from Fox, probably by March 31, he said.

In addition, Time Warner's Western New York system will add Fox's high-definition signals to its high-def tier, probably in about a month, he said.

The deal also preserves Time Warner's retransmission rights for "My TV" affiliate WNYO-TV Channel 49.

Nationally, the retransmission agreement includes stations in 22 cities where Time Warner carries Sinclair-owned channels. The previous deal expired Dec. 31.

"Sinclair is very pleased to have reached this agreement with Time Warner, which carries our stations to more subscribers than any other cable company," Sinclair President David Smith said in a statement. Sinclair stations reach 6 million viewers through Time Warner's lines.

Under the deal, Time Warner will carry Sinclair's digital signals to most of its subscribers for the first time, Sinclair announced.

Both sides were silent on the financial terms of the deal. Sinclair's statement called it a "mutually acceptable economic agreement."

Time Warner warned in November that it would drop Fox locally if talks with Sinclair fell through. The warning came after the cable company booted the NFL Network from local screens in September.

During the dispute, Time Warner said it was resisting Sinclair's demand to pay for retransmission rights. Paying cash for channels that antenna-equiped viewers can watch free would open a floodgate of demands from broadcast stations, the cable company said -- putting upward pressure on rates.

Although the deal doesn't raise rates, Jaworowski said he didn't know whether it includes cash for retransmission rights. Sinclair representatives were unavailable, as were corporate Time Warner Cable representatives.

Time Warner has said it will raise local rates about 5 percent this year.

Sinclair, based in Baltimore, remains embroiled in a retransmission fight with Mediacom Communications, another cable company, which dropped Sinclair stations on Jan. 6. Mediacom said the station owner seeks payment to retransmit channels that were previously free.


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