Verizon Gives FCC Its Side of Univision Impasse

Verizon gave FCC Chairman Ajit Pai its side of the carriage dispute with Univision that has resulted in those networks being off Verizon MVPD and wireless platforms.

That came in a letter to the FCC.

Verizon SVP Kathleen Grillo said that despite Verizon's efforts over the past two months, Univision sought unreasonable terms and price increases--more than double its current rate despite declining viewership, says Grillo.

She said Univision initially asked for a 170% increase and did not come off that figure "materially"--it ultimately dropped to 130%--in subsequent negotiations, including an offer that came Oct. 16, five hours after the expiration of the contract.

Related Article: Univision: We're Off Verizon Platforms

Grillo said it was clear that they were at an impasse and that a further extension--there had been an initial 16-day extension--would not result in a reasonable rate.

Grillo also said Verizon had an obligation to customers to negotiate a reasonable rate to protect them from "unwarranted" price increases.

The Verizon letter to the chairman came in response to one sent by Univision President Randy Falco in which he told Pai that Verizon had not negotiated in good faith--as the FCC requires: "In my 40+ years in the business, I have never seen a distributor so precipitously reject an extension and abruptly cease negotiating with a broadcaster," Falco told Pai.

Grillo said Verizon regretted its customers got caught in the middle of the dispute and has tried to reduce the impact on them, including offering a one-time credit of $5.99 to download Univision's Mobile App so they can watch on their mobile devices. It also is making two Spanish-language nets available to all customers at no extra cost.

Elsewhere on the impasse front, National Hispanic Media Coalition President Alex Nogales wrote Verizon Chairman Lowell McAdam threatening a boycott unless the carriage impasse was resolved.

"The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is outraged that at a time when catastrophic events have occurred in Mexico and Puerto Rico, Verizon has chosen to blackout Univision, the primary source of news for millions of Spanish-speaking and bilingual Latinos residing in the United States," Nogales said. "I await your answer and prompt action on this matter before having no choice but to rally Latino leaders across our nation against Verizon products and services."

Grillo told the FCC that since the contract had expired, it was obligated to take the networks down.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment on whether the chairman had reached out to the parties.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.