Adding to the annual holiday-season angst around pay-TV carriage deals, Tribune Broadcasting stations are advising some 6 million subscribers to Charter’s Spectrum cable service of a possible blackout.
Tribune said 33 stations in 24 markets could go dark across Spectrum systems if a deal cannot be reached by midnight on New Year’s Eve. Its national cable network, WGN America, would also be affected for 14 million customers. Charter is the No. 2 U.S. cable operator, with about 16 million residential customers.
“The NFL playoffs begin Jan. 5 and we want football fans in our markets to be able to watch these
games and root for their favorite teams—we want to reach an agreement with Spectrum,” said Tribune Media spokesman Gary Weitman in a press release. “We’ve offered Spectrum fair market rates for our top-rated local news, live sports and high-quality entertainment programming, and similarly fair rates for our cable network, WGN America. Spectrum has refused our offer.”
Charter offered a brief statement to Deadline: “We continue to negotiate with Tribune and hope to reach a fair agreement.”
Tribune Media, many of whose stations are in major markets like New York, LA and Chicago, is set to be acquired by Nextar in a pending deal valued at $4.1 billion. After closing the deal, Nexstar will become the No. 1 owner of local TV stations in the U.S., surpassing Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose deal to acquire Tribune fell apart last summer.
Word of the Tribune-Spectrum carriage negotiations came just a day after Disney and Verizon FiOS publicly squared off. While 2018 is pacing below 2017 in terms of total blackouts, it has yielded several high-profile impasses, including a bruising one between Starz and Altice last winter and two current standoffs between Dish Network and Univision and HBO.