They are refusing to pay for previously free content

MEXICO CITY — Three major Mexican cablers have dropped TV Azteca, refusing to pay for previously free content from the No. 2 TV group in a move that hits some 4 million subscribers.

Cablecom, Cablemas and Cablevision de Mexico are at least partially controlled by Televisa, the nation’s top TV conglom and Azteca’s only real competition as a national broadcaster.

The trio took Azteca’s free-to-air channels, Azteca 7 and Azteca 13, off their networks late Monday.

In a statement on their website, Cablecom said, “TV Azteca’s signals have gone off the air, because the programmer is trying to demand payment for its transmission, causing serious damage to our subscribers’ finances.”

On its Twitter account, Cablemas said, “We reiterate that we cannot accept this action taken by TV Azteca to attempt to charge us, as well as the rest of the national cable TV industry, for its over-the-air signals.”

Tension is sure to rise if the situation isn’t resolved by the weekend as Azteca is the sole broadcaster for many major league soccer games.

Azteca has yet to comment on the blackout.

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