What about Milwaukee? Time Warner Cable's Other Blackout Enters 6th Week

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Enough with New York and Los Angeles. What about Milwaukee?

Time Warner Cable ( TWC) has sufficiently resolved its differences with CBS ( CBS) but the same can't be said for Milwaukee-based Journal Communications.

Time Warner Cable subscribers in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Palm Springs, Calif., where Journal Communications owns the local NBC affiliate, haven't had access to that station for six weeks. The same goes for a Journal-owned CBS affiliate in Omaha.

Already, three Green Bay Packers preseason games, normally carried by Journal Communications' NBC station, have been blacked-out to Time Warner Cable subscribers in Milwaukee and Green Bay, and tonight's Denver Broncos-Baltimore Ravens game, a rematch of last year's divisional playoff, could be the next victim.

Journal Communications investors have been hurt in the process. Shares of the company, which also publishes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and owns network-affiliated TV stations in Tucson, Las Vegas, Fort Myers, Florida and Lansing, Michigan, have lost 22% since the blackout began on July 25. By comparison, the S&P 500 has dropped 2.1% during that same period. Journal Communications fell 1.4% on Thursday to $7.24.

At the center of the fight are many of the same issues that pushed Time Warner Cable and CBS into a four-week blackout: fees the cable-TV provider must pay television-station owners, and digital rights, the freedom the cable-TV provider has to repackage that programming for on-demand services.

Time Warner Cable's decision to go to battle against two station-owner groups - CBS and Journal Communications - underscores its unhappiness, or better said, complete frustration with the 1992 Cable Television Protection and Competition Act. That law requires cable-TV and satellite operators to pay broadcasters before carrying their programming.

To illustrate this frustration, Time Warner Cable spokesman Jon Herrera pointed to the retro-designed Web site of his industry's American Television Alliance, which exclaims in bold lettering that "This Site Is Just Like Our TV Rules STUCK IN THE '90S." And then, in a nod to Nirvana, adds the banner "Smells Like Outdated: 1992 rules are stinking up the video industry."

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