Tribune And Charter Settle Carriage Dispute, Restoring 33 Stations To Spectrum

Tribune Broadcasting and Charter Communications have settled their 9-day carriage dispute, which affected some 6 million Spectrum subscribers in 24 markets, including LA and New York.

The reprieve restores the signal for 33 stations, which are mostly Fox and CW affiliates, including LA’s KTLA Channel 5 and New York’s WPIX 11. That means access will be assured to high-profile programming such as NFL divisional playoff games, the mid-season premiere of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Sunday’s Critics’ Choice Awards.

On January 2, the Tribune stations went dark on Spectrum, along with cable network WGN America in 14 million homes. Charter is the No. 2 cable provider in the U.S.

The companies did not disclose terms of the settlement, but said they had reached a “comprehensive” agreement. In a joint statement, they said, “We are pleased to have reached this agreement that will return Tribune Broadcasting’s local television stations and WGN America to Spectrum customers and Tribune’s viewers.”

That sentiment follows an escalating series of accusations and counter-charges, which were not uncommon to carriage negotiations but dialed up a bit more than most.

Fox has two high-profile NFL games — Saturday night will see the Dallas Cowboys visit the Los Angeles Rams, and on Sunday afternoon the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles will play the New Orleans Saints. This season’s NFL ratings have rebounded, especially in the playoffs, after a couple of soft years.

The CW’s primetime lineup is returning with originals tonight, and carrying through to next week, when mainstays like Riverdale and The Flash return and the network debuts Roswell, New Mexico, a high-profile reboot.

The resolution ends the last of the two major carriage fights that broke out around the holidays. Disney avoided an impasse with Verizon FiOS with an 11th-hour deal at the end of December.

Blackouts, though, remain a feature of the pay-TV landscape as technology continues to disrupt the traditional bundle and consumers cut and shave the cord. Programmers and distributors are haggling over billions of dollars in retransmission consent fees, which is what distributors must pay to carry local stations and cable networks.

Satellite provider Dish is currently embroiled in two remarkable disputes with Univision and HBO that have dragged on for months and show no signs of being settled anytime soon. A year ago, Starz and Altice could not come to terms before their contract deadline, resulting in a costly outage lasting several weeks.

For Tribune, the deal with Charter comes at a sensitive time given that its parent company, Tribune Media, is set to be acquired by Nexstar 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.

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