Charter Pulls Tribune Stations from Spectrum, Affecting Nearly Six Million Subscribers

Dispute arises from increased retrans fees
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CHICAGO—Tribune Broadcasting pulled its TV stations from Charter Communications’ Spectrum cable system in 24 markets after the expiration of its contract on Wednesday. The action affects approximately six million viewers on 33 television stations.

Charter claims that Tribune is demanding more than double an increase in retransmission fees. Tribune says it is charging only what it considers “fair rates.” 

The dispute comes as the NFL begins playoffs this coming weekend. The league reported this week that viewership rose 5 percent in the 2018 season, with viewership averaging nearly 16 million viewers per game. Forty-six of the top 50 rated TV programs during the 2018 season were NFL games. 

“We don’t think it’s fair that they (Tribune Broadcasting) are demanding huge fee increases, especially since their programming is provided free with a TV antenna, and much of it is available for free on the internet.” Charter said in a statement.

"We're extremely disappointed that we do not have an agreement on the renewal of our contract with Spectrum," said Gary Weitman, Tribune Media's senior vice president for corporate relations. "We've offered Spectrum fair market rates for our top-rated local news, live sports and high-quality entertainment programming, and similarly fair rates for our cable network, WGN America," Weitman continued. "Spectrum has refused our offer and failed to negotiate in a meaningful fashion."

Stations affected by Charter’s actions include WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles, KDAF Dallas, and KSWB San Diego. WGNA America, the basic cable channel, also is affected.