Alfred Hitchcock (Madame Tussauds London).

Alfred Hitchcock

The new classic TV station WBBZ is going to get more local competition on Jan. 2.

That’s the date that Channel 2 will begin carrying Antenna TV on the digital channel that is currently carrying NBC’s Universal Sports on Time Warner Cable’s Channel 114.

Universal Sports dissolves on Jan. 2 when its programming becomes part of the NBC Sports Network that is replacing Versus on the same day.

Antenna TV won’t have the equivalent channel location of WBBZ (which is on Channel 5) but it will have more power to enable more non-cable homes to receive it with strong antennas.

According to its website, Antenna TV’s lineup includes such old series as “Sanford and Son,” “Three’s Company,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Jack Benny Program, “Hazel,” “Dragnet,” “Adam-12,” “McHale’s Navy” and “Too Close to Comfort.”

That lineup may be too close for comfort for WBBZ, which almost equaled the daily audience of WNLO-TV (Channel 4’s sister station) and WNYO-TV during the November sweeps  even though those channels carry Channel 4 and Channel 2 10 p.m. newscasts, respectively.

WBBZ is planning to increase its local programming to differentiate itself from just a classic TV station. It wouldn’t be surprising if Channel 2 carried repeats of some of its local programming on Antenna TV. Sources say that the digital channel won’t have any paid programming.

Stilltalkintv was on WBEN-AM this morning to try and explain the ongoing public relations battle and rate dispute between Time Warner Cable and MSG, which carries Buffalo Sabres game and New York Knicks game.

On Sunday, TWC sent out a release stating it wouldn’t take the Sabres games off of MSG on Jan. 1 once the current contract expires. That release was designed to put the blame on MSG if the games disappeared.

MSG countered with a full-page ad in the Buffalo News today with the headline “Time Warner Cable Might Cancel Your Sabres Games” with the sub-head “Time Warner Cable May Drop MSG and MSG plus on January 1st.”

In other words, each company is trying to blame the other if the games disappear. TWC’s offer to keep the games on past Jan. 1 would remove all the leverage (the games) that MSG has in the contract talks. It is somewhat like a business telling its union workers they can keep working for the same wages after a contract ends and hoping the union doesn’t use its only leverage and strike.

MSG’s ad today is similarly misleading. TWC doesn’t want to “cancel” the Sabres games. It will only take then off if MSG takes the “strike option” and forces it to take them off when the contract expires.

TWC has claimed that it would have been willing to accept an earlier price hike of about 6 percent but adds that MSG now wants a 53 percent rate hike to carry the channel and the low-watched Fuse channel (which has been taken off). MSG has countered by saying TWC is misrepresenting the negotiations.

Of course, cable companies and suppliers don’t usually reveal specific contract requests. I would be more comfortable with TWC’s claims if they detailed exactly what they are being asked to do in dollars and cents.

MSG is telling TWC subscribers that they have agreements with DirecTV and FiOS and could switch to get the Sabres games.

It is easy to see who Sabres fans and non-hockey fans should root for – TWC. The more it has to pay the more subscribers eventually will have to pay. And that includes all the TWC subscribers who don’t care about hockey because cable companies pay a per subscriber fee whether you watch the Sabres games or not.

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