New Year’s Day could be less than festive for Cable One subscribers who enjoy NBCUniversal fare.
Comcast’s programming arm began alerting the MSO’s customers that they could lose nine cable networks, plus NBC and Telemundo stations, if the parties can’t reach a new carriage agreement.
Contracts covering USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, Sprout, CNBC, MSNBC, NBCSN, mun 2, as well as NBC- and Telemundo-owned stations, are set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31 NBC stations serving Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Boise, Idaho and Biloxi, Miss. are among the 11 that could go dark if NBCU and Cable One can’t bridge their monthly license fee differences.
Carriage of Golf Channel and E!, which were owned by Comcast before it acquired NBCU in 2011, are governed by a different contract.
NBCU began running crawl messages on USA, Syfy and NBCSN last night, with Bravo slated to join the mix today. NBCU is also getting the word out via MyShowsMatter.com (pictured).
The gambit came despite that the fact that both parties say that discussions are continuing, although the programmer characterized the talks in less than glowing terms.
“NBCUniversal offered Cable One rates at fair market value that have been widely accepted by hundreds of MVPDs. In this case, NBCUniversal has offered Cable One a deal at the same rates we provide to the NCTC, rates that were negotiated when a former Cable One executive was on the NCTC programming committee and approved the agreement,” the programmer said in a statement. “Cable One has declined all NBCUniversal offers stating they believe it deserves to receive our valuable programming at below market rates. At this point, based on Cable One's unwillingness to productively negotiate, we have to start informing our viewers that they are at risk of losing access to our programming. As the most-watched media company, we know the enormous value we bring to Cable One’s customers and hope that Cable One will reconsider and decide to continue carrying our services.”
Cable One responded with the following statement on its Facebook customer service page early Thursday afternoon: “We are shocked and dismayed that NBC Universal has launched a negative ad campaign regarding our current negotiations. Despite the fact that NBC Universal is currently demanding a rate increase that is more than double our previous contract, we are continuing to negotiate in good faith and are optimistic that we will come to an agreement. We are listening to feedback from our customers that they would like to keep these channels, and we will continue to negotiate on their behalf to resolve this agreement and avoid disruption to their channels.”
If the parties disconnect, it would mark the second major blackout with a top programming group for the MSO, which now counts just over 475,000 subscribers in 19 states. Cable One no longer offers Viacom networks as part of its video package, after MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central and others went dark after the expiration of its NCTC pact on April 1.
The operator, which has seen its video subscriber rolls dip 15% since Q3 2013, has said it is downplaying video in favor of broadband service.
The NBCU carriage contretemps come as Graham Holdings has authorized its board of directors to spin off its Cable One assets, in a transaction that could be finalized in 2015.
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