UPDATE, 4:00 PM: Charter’s cable customers can continue watching NBCUniversal channels past midnight, at least for now. The companies’ negotiations over a carriage deal to replace the one that expires tonight “have been extended,” NBCU says.
The programmer adds that it “will continue to negotiate in good faith so that Charter Spectrum customers can continue to receive NBCUniversal’s valuable networks and we hope to be able to reach a deal.”
PREVIOUS: Charter’s cable TV customers should brace themselves for the possibility of losing NBCUniversal’s cable channels and NBC-owned local stations beginning New Year’s Day, the programmer warns today.
Charter “has been unyielding in its demand for terms superior to those agreed to by the rest of the industry, including larger distributors,” Comcast-owned NBCU says. “Given this position, we feel the responsibility to inform viewers that Charter Spectrum may drop NBCUniversal’s networks at the end of the year.”
Charter declined to comment.
It had 16.9 million video subscribers at the end of September. They’re at risk of losing channels including USA Network, Bravo, MSNBC, and CNBC, as well as stations owned by NBC and Telemundo.
Programmers and distributors frequently rattle their sabers when negotiating retransmission contracts — before reaching last minute agreements, or keeping existing terms in place while they continue to negotiate.
If there’s no deal, then it could create a big public relations problem for Charter. The company bought Time Warner Cable this year, and is heavily marketing the switch to Charter’s Spectrum brand in major markets including Manhattan. Ads (voiced by actor Ethan Hawke) promise subscribers “a new day” and “new look at what a cable company can be.”
NBCU also has a lot at stake: Its Esquire Network was recently dropped by AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse, and might find it hard to survive if it also loses the No. 2 cable operator.
NBC will want the largest possible audience for some of its upcoming programs. On New Year’s Day it has the Green Bay Packer-Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football. The network also has the Golden Globe Awards on January 8, and new episodes of scripted series including This Is Us, Blindspot, and The Blacklist.
And the company wants distribution for its recently announced Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, which it plans to launch in the second half of 2017.