NBCUniversal, Charter Spectrum Extend Talks on Programming

  • Extension helps to avert blackout for Charter subscribers
  • Charter Spectrum is NBCUniversal’s third-largest distributor

NBCUniversal and Charter Communications Inc. extended talks about programming terms, helping to keep NBCUniversal’s broadcast and cable networks, including USA and Bravo, from going dark and averting a New Year’s Eve blackout.

Without the extension, announced by NBCUniversal in an e-mailed statement, the channels would have become unavailable in the first seconds of 2017 if the two couldn’t agree on new terms granting Charter rights to NBCUniversal’s programming. The cable provider is NBCUniversal’s third-largest distributor, with 17.3 million subscribers getting the company’s Spectrum TV service across the country, including New York City and Los Angeles.

Standoffs between TV networks and distributors are common, and they often go down to the wire as both sides 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.

NBCUniversal is owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company, which is often on the other side of the negotiating table with 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, based in Stamford, Connecticut, 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 fees. Charter has said it expects the programmers to honor their contracts.

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