With the blackout of many of its stations and cable network to Charter Communications Inc.'s video customers now in its fifth day, Tribune Media Co. CEO Peter Kern has penned a letter to viewers stating that the company is seeking a "fair deal" with the nation's No. 2 cable operator.
After assenting to a short-term extension ahead of the Dec. 31, 2018, expiration of their contract, the parties could not conclude a new agreement on Jan. 2, and 6 million Charter video subscribers have been without access to content on 33 Tribune stations, including NFL playoff action this past weekend, in 24 markets. Moreover, some 14 million Spectrum video customers have been disconnected from WGN America (US) since then.
Kern, in a Jan. 7 letter available on the websites of affected stations in Spectrum markets and its corporate vehicle, wrote that Tribune Media is "deeply disappointed" that Spectrum subscribers have been unable to "enjoy" the programmer’s top-rated news, sports and entertainment fare and that it has "worked tirelessly to try to make sure it was available on an uninterrupted basis."
He then noted that since the disruption Spectrum has "given you a false picture of our negotiation. We are not asking for triple or double the rates for our programming. We are asking only for a fair deal, one that is comparable to what every other cable and satellite TV provider pays us for our content."
Asked to respond, Charter updated a previous statement. "While negotiations with Tribune continue, customers can find NFL games on the NFL and Yahoo Sports mobile apps and on NFL Deportes," the company said. "Other programming is available online, over the air and on Locast where applicable."
Kern, in the missive, called Spectrum "a huge goliath" with over $43 billion and $10 billion in annual revenue and profits, respectively, that is using "its scale and all of you to try to pressure us to take less than a fair price. The reality is that what Spectrum is saying on TV and online about our negotiations is simply false."
The executive continued, saying Spectrum thinks that Tribune as a smaller company will yield to its tactics. "That would leave Tribune with fewer resources to invest in programming," he wrote. "We will keep working to resolve this situation and we will keep fighting to bring you great content. We want nothing more than to have a good working relationship with Spectrum and to get our channels back on the air at a fair price."