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Charter customers lose access to Tribune stations as carriage contract expires

After reaching a short-term extension, Tribune Media Co.-owned Tribune Broadcasting Co. LLC and Charter Communications Inc. could not consummate a new carriage deal, resulting in 33 stations and cable service WGN America (US) becoming unavailable to the cable operator’s video subscribers.

In failing to reach a retransmission-consent renewal, 6 million Spectrum customers lost access to 33 stations, including WPIX, KTLA and WGN in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively, in 24 markets, at 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 2. In addition, 14 million Spectrum subscribers cannot currently watch WGN America.

The parties on Dec. 31, 2018, extended their contract, which was set to expire at 12:01 ET on Jan. 1, to 5 p.m. today.

Per usual, the price-value equation is at the heart of the disconnect.

"It is unfortunate that Tribune has decided to pull its programming from our customers' lineups," Charter said in a statement. "Tribune is demanding an increase of more than double what we pay today for the same programming. That is more than we pay any other broadcaster. They’re not being reasonable."

Gary Weitman, Tribune Media's senior vice president for corporate relations, expressed disappointment that the parties could not reach a renewal deal, noting that the company had "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. Spectrum has refused our offer and failed to negotiate in a meaningful fashion."

Weitman said Spectrum customers may not be able to watch key pro football action in their residences on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6.

"The NFL playoffs are in jeopardy—beginning this weekend with critical games in some key markets like Indianapolis and Seattle. We don't want Spectrum subscribers to miss these games," he said in a statement.

Relative to the NFL, Charter said this weekend’s Wild Card playoff action can be watched for free on NFL and Yahoo Sports mobile apps.