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NBCU, Liberty Reach Pact to End Puerto Rico Blackout

Liberty Puerto Rico and NBCUniversal Media said they reached an agreement that ends a weekend blackout of the local Telemundo station and 13 cable channels.

The two companies said they were able to reach “a reasonable commercial agreement” that will return the NBCU content to Liberty customers.

Specific financial terms were not released.

“Today’s agreement really puts the customer first and brings back channels that they love,” said Stephane David, VP, chief programming officer of Liberty Latin America. “We are proud of our longstanding partnership with NBCUniversal and look forward to continuing to provide our customers with high-quality content from all of our partners.”

“Liberty Cablevision is an important distribution partner and NBCUniversal is pleased to have reached a distribution agreement that will benefit customers in Puerto Rico,” stated Matt Schnaars, senior VP, NBCUniversal Content Distribution. “Telemundo in particular has a special bond with the people of Puerto Rico and we are pleased our quality entertainment, news and sports will be available to Liberty subscribers.”

Liberty and NBCU had a distribution deal that ran through the end of 2019. But the agreement included an opt-out, that was exercised by Liberty. Liberty wanted out of the agreement earlier because of the economic problems affecting Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria in 2017. The cable company was seeking financial relief from the programmer.

NBCU said a new deal was close, but the terms were rejected by Liberty Puerto Rico’s parent company, Liberty Latin America. At the deadline on Thursday night at 6 p.m,, the networks were blacked out to LIberty subscribers.

“Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico is dropping Telemundo, NBC and the NBCUniversal cable networks on Thursday evening, after the Liberty Latin America Board rejected the agreement that their leadership team in Puerto Rico had negotiated and accepted as fair,” NBCU said in a statement at the time. “NBCUniversal is sensitive to challenges on the island and proposed terms and prices that recognized the difficult situation in Puerto Rico.”

Liberty claimed NBCU was seeking to double retransmission fees over two years.

“After years of cooperation and several months of discussions, we are disappointed to see NBCUniversal use their size and scale to bully a local provider and put our customers in the middle of negotiations,” Liberty Puerto Rico said when the content was blacked out.

Telemundo’s WKAQ-TV is a key station in the market and helped raise money after the hurricane. It is being restored after the weekend blackout..

Also returning after the blackout were cable networks Universo, USA, MSNBC, Bravo, E!, CNBC, Syfy, Oxygen, Golf Channel, Universal Kids and Punto 2.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.