Tribune Warns of Blackout to Spectrum Subscribers

Tribune Media stations are warning subscribers to Charter Communications’ Spectrum cable systems that local stations could be blacked out when their retransmission consent agreement with the cable operator expires at the end of the year.

Tribune said that more than six million customers could be affected and not be able to watch sports events including the NFL playoffs as well as local news should they fail to reach a new agreement.

The dispute also affects Tribune’s WGN America cable network, which would be blacked out to 14 million subscribers.

“The NFL playoffs begin Jan. 5 and we want football fans in our markets to be able to watch these games and root for their favorite teams—we want to reach an agreement with Spectrum,” said Gary Weitman, senior VP for corporate relations at Tribune. “We’ve offered Spectrum fair market rates for our top-rated local news, live sports and high-quality entertainment programming, and similarly fair rates for our cable network, WGN America. Spectrum has refused our offer.”

Tribune is in the process of being acquired by Nexstar Media.

“We are only a few days away from the deadline to reach an agreement with Spectrum, just as we have done with every one of our other cable, satellite and telco distributors,” said Weitman. “We felt that now was the time to begin telling Spectrum subscribers that they may lose access to our stations and the programming they provide.”

A Charter spokesperson said, “We continue to negotiate with Tribune and hope to reach a fair agreement.”

The end of the year is often when retransmission and carriage agreements expire. Earlier this week, the Walt Disney Co. and Verizon’s FiOS began warning of a New Year’s blackout.

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.