Usually in the course of a retransmission dispute an MVPD will attempt to take the high road with hardball tactics that force the broadcaster on the other side to pull the trigger on a blackout, thus looking to some like the bad guy. That’s not the case in the battle between Tribune and Cablevision.
Cablevision just went ahead and dropped four stations, including WPIX-TV in New York, WPHL-TV in Philadelphia, WCCT-TV in Hartford and KWGN-TV in Denver.
Tribune said that the move by Cablevision came suddenly and without warning, and that its offer to keep the stations on air to while proceeding with further negotiations was rejected.
Cablevision said that the corporate interests behind the bankrupt broadcast company were trying to fix its books on the backs of Cablevision subscribers.
Here is Tribune’s statement:
“Tonight, while in the middle of negotiations with Tribune and without warning, Cablevision unilaterally removed four Tribune stations in four markets from its cable systems. Cablevison took this action despite our offer of an unconditional extension of the current carriage agreement with no change in terms while negotiations continued. To be clear, Tribune was willing to provide Cablevision subscribers access to the valuable programming on these stations while working toward a new agreement. Tribune never made any threat to withdraw these stations or any demand that Cablevision remove them.
“Tribune makes a substantial annual investment in local news, live sports and high-quality entertainment programming. Cablevision has never compensated Tribune for the retransmission of its local stations, which are among the most highly watched channels on Cablevision’s line-ups. What we have proposed amounts to less than a penny a day per subscriber, well below what Cablevision pays to providers of less well-watched channels.
“Tonight’s action by Cablevision is unfortunate and is designed to mislead their subscribers who rely on Tribune’s local stations.
Cablevision had something to say as well:
“The bankrupt Tribune Company and the hedge funds and banks that own it, including Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo Gordon & Co. and others are trying to solve Tribune’s financial problems on the backs of Cablevision customers. Tribune and their hedge fund owners are demanding tens of millions in new fees for WPIX and other stations they own. They should stop their anti-consumer demands and work productively to reach an agreement.
“WPIX and a number of other Tribune-owned stations carried in portions of Cablevision’s service area have been blacked out. The other stations are: WCCT (CW), carried in a small portion of Connecticut; KWGN (CW) carried in some Optimum West markets, and WPHL (MyNetwork), which had been available in a small portion of New Jersey.
“Customers will be kept informed and can visit www.cablevision.com/tribune for additional information.”