Tribune Media Pulls Channels Over Spectrum Contract Dispute

LOS ANGELES (CN) – More than six million Spectrum cable subscribers lost access to local news and entertainment stations produced by Tribune Media after the two communications giants failed to agree on a distribution contract by a Wednesday deadline.

Both companies had agreed on a short-term contract Monday in order to hash out terms over distribution fees, but negotiations were unsuccessful. Spectrum cut distribution of some Fox and CBS news channels nationwide.

Before the cuts, Stamford-based Charter Communications – which offers broadband services under the Spectrum brand – broadcast Tribune Media’s news, weather, sports and entertainment programming on 33 of its cable television stations.

Tribune Media had proposed that Spectrum pay an increased fee for the rights to carry that programming.

The Chicago-based company said in a statement Wednesday that the 33 television stations – which stretch across 24 markets across the country – went black for Spectrum subscribers after an extended contract deadline expired at 2 p.m. PST.

Tribune Media spokesman Gary Weitman said in a statement that the company offered Spectrum fair market rates and that it was extremely disappointed that an agreement hadn’t been reached.

“Spectrum has refused our offer and failed to negotiate in a meaningful fashion,” Weitman said.

Tribune Media’s plans to broadcast NFL playoff games – set to begin this weekend – are in now jeopardy, Weitman added.

“We don’t want Spectrum subscribers to miss these games,” Weitman said, adding that Spectrum customers may also miss out on NCAA basketball games.

Another 14 million Spectrum subscribers have also lost access to WGN America, Tribune’s entertainment network which features its premier programs such as “Blue Bloods” and “Elementary.”   

A Charter spokesperson, however, said Tribune was asking too much for its programming.

“It is unfortunate that Tribune has decided to pull its programming from our customers’ lineups,” the spokesperson said. “Tribune is demanding an increase of more than double what we pay today for the same programming. That is more than we pay any other broadcaster. They’re not being reasonable.” 

Company employees from blacked-out stations across the country took to social media on Wednesday to alert their viewers about the change and to inform them that some content can be viewed over internet streaming.

Viewers can still see Tribune Media’s local programming by using a digital antenna.

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