NBCUniversal Says Channels May Go Dark in Charter Cable Dispute

  • NBC: Charter has been ‘unyielding’ in demanding better terms
  • Cable provider has customers in Los Angeles and New York City

NBCUniversal says its broadcast and cable networks, including USA and Bravo, may be unavailable to Charter Communications Inc. subscribers on Jan. 1 as the companies fight over contract terms.

Charter “has been unyielding in its demand for terms superior to those agreed to by the rest of the industry, including larger distributors,” NBCUniversal said in a statement Thursday. Charter is NBCUniversal’s third-largest distributor, with 17.3 million subscribers across the country, including major markets like New York City and Los Angeles.

A Charter spokesman declined to comment.

Disputes like this one are common between TV networks and distributors, and they often go down to the wire as both sides try to demand better deals. Such negotiations have gained even more significance as the pay-TV industry loses subscribers, putting pressure on Charter and other cable providers to cut costs and forcing networks like NBC to prove their value.

Adding to the intrigue in this standoff is that NBCUniversal is owned by Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company, which often finds itself on the other side of the negotiating table against TV networks. NBCUniversal owns cable channels such as CNBC and broadcaster NBC, which is scheduled to air a “Sunday Night Football” game loaded with playoff implications on Jan. 1, when the Green Bay Packers face the Detroit Lions.

Charter recently acquired Time Warner Cable Inc. and Bright House Networks, giving it more leverage in negotiations. The cable provider was recently sued by Fox News and Univision Holdings Inc. over fee payments. Charter has said it expects the programmers to honor their contracts.

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