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In 1978, 7-year-old Michelle Kim had no problem deciding which television show to watch each evening. Her family had just moved from Chicago to Korea, where her father grew up. Because she couldn’t speak a word of Korean, Kim resigned herself to watching “M*A*S*H” on the only English-speaking station in Seoul. Fade to the present: Kim has been back in the United States for years, and like most television viewers, she can choose from an ever-growing number of channels. At Time Warner Cable Inc., where she’s vice president and chief counsel of programming, she’s working to increase those viewing options even more. When her company wants to add more channels to its menu, she negotiates the carriage contracts. When it wants to offer new services like high-definition television or video on demand, she bargains for the licensing rights. And when one of Time Warner Cable’s providers doesn’t live up to its contract, she steps in to enforce the terms. Kim recently spoke to Corporate Counsel staff reporter Eriq Gardner about what’s on her programming schedule these days. Q: How has the world of cable programming become more complicated? A: Three years ago, the relationship between program providers — the Disneys, Foxes, and Viacoms of this world — and a cable company such as Time Warner was pretty straightforward. As a cable company, you signed a simple contract that gave you licensing rights to deliver a network to your customers, and that was basically it. Now, with convergence and new technologies, everyone is rolling out many more products and services. So instead of just having a linear deal with a network, you have to negotiate all sorts of different rights. Q: Some examples? A: One deal I recently worked on gave us the rights to broadcast New York Yankees games in HDTV. Another project I’ve been working on is acquiring the rights to local news broadcasts so we can make them available to customers [through video on demand] pretty quickly after the original broadcast. Not everyone gets home in time for the 6 p.m. local news. Q: What role do you play in making all of this happen? A: I work with [our] engineers to find out our technical capabilities, and then speak with broadcast stations to determine the appropriate [license] rights needed to give us the ability to do this sort of thing. Q: How involved are the lawyers in Time Warner Cable’s business decisions? A: We’re advisers to the process. We’re always strategizing. Because when it comes time to negotiate the exact terms of agreement with program providers, it’s necessary to be thinking ahead about what rights will be needed to provide these interactive services. Q: What are the key issues you’re trying to resolve when you work on an agreement with a network? A: First, what’s the content that the network will be providing to us? If we’re negotiating a deal for a movie channel, we want it to continue to be a movie channel and not morph into a sports network or fishing channel or poker channel. Second, where are we going to distribute the service? As the second-largest cable operator, we’ve got cable systems spread throughout the country, and a critical question for both parties is in which of those systems will we have an obligation to distribute the network. And third, in those systems where we distribute the network, on what tier or level of service will we carry the network? Some of our tiers are very widely distributed — they go to almost all of our subscribers. Others are less highly penetrated and only go to a subset of our subscribers. Q: It sounds like that could make for some intense negotiations. A: I can tell you that compared to the licensing work I used to do [as an intellectual property associate at Morrison & Foerster], the negotiations are much more animated now, much more contentious. Much of the programming under negotiation is pretty valuable. None of these deals are cookie-cutter deals. Q: You’re currently working on Time Warner Cable’s ongoing suit against the American Movie Classics cable network. Why did you take them to court, and what’s the latest status? A: They started broadcasting content — such as the sequel to “Saturday Night Fever” — that was less than “classic” or what they promised [in the carriage contract]. We won summary judgment at the district court level, but since it’s still pending, I’d rather not comment further. But we’re working on a settlement.

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