Showtime Sues Charter

Showtime Networks is the latest programmer to lob a lawsuit at Charter Communications over claims that the MSO is trying to get a lower carriage rate linked to legacy deals with Time Warner Cable.

The complaint, filed Wednesday with the New York State Supreme Court, is seeking judgement against Charter for alleged breach of contract.

Update: Showtime noted that the suit seeks both damages for underpaid license fees and a declaratory judgment that Showtime Networks’ agreement with Time Warner Cable was terminated upon the closing of Charter’s recent acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.  

"Showtime Networks made every effort to resolve this matter short of the courthouse, but Charter’s persistent refusal to honor its contractual obligations forced Showtime Networks to take this regrettable, but necessary, step," Showtime said in a separate statement. 

Showtime, which launched a direct-to-consumer OTT subscription service in July 2015, is the first premium programmer to file a suit of this nature against Charter following the MSO’s merger with TWC and BHN.

RELATED: Fox News Sues Charter Over Carriage Spat

As in the other lawsuits, Showtime said Charter is trying to argue that it was Time Warner Cable, rather than Charter, that acquired and now owns and manages the TWC and Bright House Network Systems and should, therefore, get the lower TWC rate. Charter, it said, claims that a company called Spectrum Management Holding Company acquired the legacy Charter systems that that Spectrum now owns and manages the Charter and TWC/BHN systems.

RELATED: Univision Sues Charter 

“This argument is demonstrably false,” Showtime asserted in the complaint, citing examples indicating that Charter is the acquirer.

Charter has been asked for comment.

Update: "We have a long-term contract with Showtime and we expect them to honor it," Charter said, in a statement. 

The suits with Univision and Fox News came up on Charter’s Q2 call earlier this month. Charter Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge said the complaints were expected and are viewed as part of the overall negotiating process.

“The nature of programming relationships hasn't fundamentally changed, and it's still a contentious contractual environment,” he said. “But, generally, we have good relationships with our programmers, and I think the litigation is part of the negotiation process in general. And it's going about what we thought it would go.”