Tribune And Charter’s Spectrum Extend Contract Deadline, Avert New Year’s Day Blackout

By Dade Hayes, Dawn C. Chmielewski

Tribune Media and Charter’s Spectrum cable systems have agreed to extend the deadline for their carriage contract to 5 PM ET Wednesday, averting a blackout of 33 local TV stations that would have taken effect at 12:01 AM ET tonight.

The ongoing dispute has affected some 6 million Charter subscribers, with programming in the balance including college and NFL football and holiday fare. In Los Angeles, Tribune’s KTLA broadcasts the Tournament of Roses Parade, a New Year’s Day staple, and is also home to the CW’s primetime lineup, as are other Tribune affiliates in major markets like New York.

Several Tribune affiliates are aligned with other broadcast networks, which also put next week’s start to the NFL playoffs on the endangered list.

Talks pertain to 33 stations carried by Spectrum in 24 markets, plus Tribune’s national cable network, WGN America, which reaches 14 million homes. Charter is the No. 2 U.S. cable operator, with about 16 million residential customers.

Tribune Broadcasting parent Tribune Media is set to be acquired by Nextar in a pending deal valued at $4.1 billion. The acquisition will make Nexstar the No. 1 owner of local TV stations in the U.S., surpassing Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose own deal to acquire Tribune fell apart last summer.

Word of the Tribune-Spectrum carriage negotiations first surfaced last week, just as Disney and Verizon Fios also publicly squared off in similar fashion, though those companies have since resolved their dispute. 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.

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