Telemundo, NBCU Nets Go Dark on Liberty Puerto Rico

NBCUniversal’s Telemundo station and cable networks have been blacked out to Liberty Puerto Rico subscribers in a carriage fee dispute.

The agreement was set to expire at the end of 2018, but the pact included an opt out clause, effective March 31. A deal appeared to be close, but fell through, NBCU said. The deadline, extended to Thursday night at 6 p.m. ET, came and went without a new pact.

Liberty said that because of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria, it was seeking better terms, but that NBCU was pushing to more than double retransmission rates 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,” said Naji Khoury, president and CEO of Liberty Puerto Rico.

“NBCUniversal is attempting to charge penalizing retransmission fees for Telemundo and NBC Puerto Rico that would see the cost for these channels doubling over two years. These rates are essentially in line with U.S. market levels, which are much higher than what would be considered fair for a market like Puerto Rico. You also have to remember that Telemundo and NBC Puerto Rico are available in our market over the air, for free, with the use of an antenna,” Khoury said.

Puerto Rico is part of the U.S.

“We were hoping to resolve this matter before getting to this point and will continue to engage constructively with NBCUniversal to bring back these channels. We reaffirm our commitment to our customers and to the island of Puerto Rico,” Khoury said. .

NBCU maintained that it was willing to make concessions to Liberty to keep its channels on the Liberty cable systems.

“It’s a sad day for Liberty Cablevision subscribers in Puerto Rico since their cable company decided to drop Telemundo, NBC and additional leading networks," NBCU said in a statement. "NBCUniversal agreed to a deal that made significant concessions and reflected the realities in Puerto Rico to accommodate the concerns Liberty has raised. Liberty Cablevision also agreed to this deal before the Liberty Latin America Board rejected it. NBCUniversal remains ready to sign the deal that we thought had been accepted by Liberty last week or discuss an alternative proposal that reflects the value of our networks.” 

“Telemundo has a proud history in Puerto Rico and will continue to help the island rebuild while investing in leading Spanish-language news, sports, and entertainment, which will remain available on DirecTV and Dish in Puerto Rico,” NBCU said.

Liberty Puerto Rico has about 215,000 subscribers.

Channels affected by the blackout included Telemundo station WKAQ-TV and the cable networks Universo, USA, MSNBC, Bravo, E!, CNBC, Syfy, Oxygen, Golf Channel, Universal Kids and Punto 2.

Jon Lafayette

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.