Court Grants Charter Temporary Restraining Order in Univision Battle

The New York State Supreme Court has granted Charter Communications' request for a temporary restraining order against Univision Communications, a move that will return the broadcaster to the cable operator’s customers as it continues carriage litigation.

Univision pulled its signal in Charter systems across the country on Feb. 1 after it said it could not reach a carriage agreement. Univision and Charter have been locked in a court battle since July over differing interpretations of that deal.  Univision said Charter violated its agreement when, after it closed its $80 billion deal to purchase Time Warner Cable in May, it had paid the programmer the lower rate attributable to TWC systems for all of its properties. Univision argued that former Charter systems were obligated to pay the higher rate until the deal expired.

“Today, the Supreme Court for The State of New York granted Charter a temporary restraining order, meaning that Univision programming will be returned to our customers,” Charter said in a statement. The company had no further comment. 

In a statement, Unvision said the order will expire on Feb. 9 and was made by a judge who was temporarily assigned to the case. When the presiding judge returns in seven days, the channels will go dark again, unless another deal is reached.

"For the 7 day period that it is receiving Univision’s services, Charter Spectrum will be required to post a bond covering the actual market value of Univision’s programming, rather than the inadequate rates that Charter Spectrum has been paying," Univision said in a statement. "Univision remains ready and willing to meet at any time with Charter Spectrum to engage in comprehensive, good-faith negotiations for the long term carriage of our stations and networks.   To date, Charter Spectrum has steadfastly refused to engage in such negotiations."

After Univision pulled its signal, Charter argued to the court that the loss of the channels would do it irreparable harm, in that it would likely lose customers during a blackout which would be hard pressed to return whatever the outcome. Univision, Charter argued, would either get the rate it is currently receiving or a higher fee.

“This dispute is about money, nothing more,” Charter wrote in a letter to state Supreme Court Judge Peter Sherwood on Jan. 31. “Univision has demanded a higher rate from Charter than provided for in the TWC Agreement and will happily continue to provide its programming content if it gets that rate rather than the TWC rate. If the Court ultimately determines that Univision is correct and that the TWC Agreement and its rates do not apply, Univision can be made whole by being paid the difference, if any, between the TWC rate and the fair market value of its programming. There is thus no harm—much less, irreparable harm—to Univision from maintaining the status quo.”