An ‘Expedited’ Solution To Charter-Univision Stalemate?


There will be no absence of Pequeños Gigantes USA, Vino el Amor or Despierta América for Univision viewers who receive the network — along with Univision Communications’ broadcast network sibling UniMás and pay-TV giant Galavisión — for Charter Spectrum subscribers through the end of June.

In a statement sent to RBR + TVBR late Tuesday, Univision Communications said it and Charter “have agreed to forego a preliminary injunction hearing and instead will pursue an expedited schedule that will allow the court to rule on the dispute more quickly.”

Explaining the move, Univision said, “We are committed to serving our audience and ensuring that they have access to the Univision networks they value.”

The settlement includes a hefty bond that Charter is set to post, and we’ve got the financial details as stated in the official Stipulation and Order.

The development comes after a temporary restraining order was granted to Charter on Feb. 2 by the Supreme Court For The State of New York, which allowed for the return of Univision programming through Feb. 9. This was extended through the end of February, due to an unexpected health-related absence by the judge hearing the case. Under the TRO, Charter Spectrum was required to post a bond covering what Univision says is “the actual market value” of its programming.

Proposed on March 1 and now codified by both parties, Univision will continue to provide the signals of its stations and networks to Charter.

The settlement calls for a series of procedures that commences March 17, when Charter will be asked to answer Univision’s declaratory judgment claim and file its own declaratory judgment counterclaim regarding what contract governs — the Charter retransmission fees agreement with Univision or that of Time Warner Cable, which Charter acquired.

The battle over which fee schedule Univision will accept is at the crux of the battle, which started in July 2016. That’s when Univision sued Charter, as it strenuously believes the Univision-Charter retransmission fee agreement is controlling.

It is Charter’s belief that the contract Univision had with Time Warner Cable for retransmission fees is controlling per its merger agreement with the MVPD.

The Univision-Charter deal expired in June 2016; the Hispanic media company’s retrans deal with Time Warner was not set to expire until the end of 2022.

Univision was vocal in its disagreement, saying that Charter “bases this argument on the preposterous theory that as a result of the merger, Time Warner Cable, rather than Charter, is managing all these cable systems.”

The court’s timetable will now see document production completed by April 4, fact depositions completed by May 9 (limited to four fact depositions per side), expert reports served by May 11, and the deposition of either side’s one expert on liability issues completed by May 18.

Both parties will file for summary judgment on liability as to their respective declaratory judgment claims by May 25; responses are due June 16.

That means the Supreme Court for the State of New York in New York County will hear argument on the summary judgment motions on June 30, or the next available date.

Within one week of this, Charter will post a hefty $50 million bond, reflecting retransmission fee payments to Univision from March 1 through the date on which the summary judgments are decided.

A Charter spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Representing Charter are three attorneys from Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Univision is represented by three attorneys from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

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Adam R Jacobson is a veteran radio industry journalist and advertising industry analyst with general, multicultural and Hispanic market expertise. From 1996 to 2006 he served as an editor at Radio & Records.