Channel 8 newscast
Channel 8 Eyewitness News anchors Rod Fowler and Vanessa Brown prepare for the 5 p.m. news broadcast at television station KLKN on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010. (GWYNETH ROBERTS / Lincoln Journal Star)

Viewers who programmed ABC's new hit series "Rookie Blue" into their digital video recorders may need to make changes to them today.

At least those viewers who watch the Thursday night cop drama on KLKN-TV will need to do so.

The Lincoln ABC affiliate shut off its signal to Time Warner Cable after its retransmission agreement expired at midnight. The two sides were unable to come to a new agreement before the deadline.

"We don't like to interrupt programming while we negotiate," local Time Warner spokeswoman Ann Shrewsbury said. "We wanted to keep KLKN on the air during negotiations, but, without permission, we can't air the channel."

Time Warner serves 66 percent of viewers in Lancaster and Seward counties, according to the Nielsen Co. In Lincoln, KLKN airs on Channel 8 and in high definition on Channel 108.

Viewers will need to turn elsewhere on Time Warner's lineup for ABC programming and use an antenna or subscribe to a satellite service to receive KLKN.

KLKN requested more money from Time Warner to allow the cable company to carry its signal. Time Warner refused to pay it. Terms have not been made public.

Current rates for broadcast TV-carriage deals usually run from 10 to 50 cents per subscriber, according to industry reports.

"The bottom line is KLKN's demands are completely unreasonable," Shrewsbury said. "We have to get tough on behalf of our customers and control programming costs."

KLKN said its request was reasonable.

"For them to suggest (otherwise), that's simply not true," said Ray Cole, president and chief operations officer of KLKN's Iowa-based parent company, Citadel Communications. "What we've asked for is the going market rate for a broadcasting affiliate, especially one that produces local news programming."

In the entire Lincoln-Kearney-Hastings market, cable TV penetration is 53 percent. KLKN estimates Time Warner serves about half of those viewers.

"As an advertiser, I'm concerned," said Ron Romero, owner of Schaefer's TV. "I'm not going to jump to any conclusions right now. We'll wait and see what happens. But if we're not on the cable signal, it's something we would take a look at."

That's what Cole said he is afraid will happen.

"Not being able to reach an equitable agreement with Time Warner is threatening my ability to operate a station viewers have become accustomed to," he said.

The contract negotiation was one of two affecting area viewers.

Time Warner also found itself in a public dispute with Disney over carriage agreements for ESPN, The Disney Channel and more. The two sides agreed in principle on a deal Wednesday, according to media reports.

The local contract dispute has been nasty, with KLKN-TV and Time Warner airing their grievances publicly.

Time Warner, in full-page advertisements in the Journal Star, urged viewers to switch to Omaha's KETV for ABC programming and to Lincoln TV station KOLN/KGIN-TV for local news, weather and sports.

KLKN, meanwhile, told viewers on its website that the station was available through satellite services and "for free" over the air. It also posted the number for Shrewsbury's direct line in a TV spot.

"It's a silly deal," Romero said, "but I can see both sides of it. I just hope they work it out."

This is KLKN-TV's third carriage agreement that has played out publicly in the past two years. The station went dark for five weeks on satellite service DISH Network in August 2008 before an agreement was reached.

In March 2010, the TV station struck a deal with satellite service DirecTV just prior to the deadline.

After KLKN went off the air, Time Warner made no adjustments to its channel lineup except in Fairbury, where the Omaha ABC affiliate is not available. Time Warner plugged in Kearney's KHGI-TV for ABC programming.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com.

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