NBCUniversal, Charter Prep for Negotiation Showdown, Possible Blackout (EXCLUSIVE)

This is Us NBC Dan Fogelman
Courtesy of NBC

NBCUniversal and Charter Communications are in a carriage-negotiation standoff that could see millions of customers lose access to NBCU-owned channels beginning Jan. 1.

With both parties at an impasse, Comcast-owned NBCU has prepped a marketing campaign designed to appeal to Charter customers to pressure the cable provider into taking a more flexible negotiating stance. That campaign was set to launch late Thursday afternoon with a crawl that would run across the screens of Charter’s Spectrum customers watching NBCU channels, alerting them to the possibility of a programming blackout.

Sources tell Variety that Charter, which earlier this year completed a merger with Time Warner Cable, has rejected a package price for NBCU’s channels similar to that paid by other distributors, and that negotiations have stalled completely. The current Charter-NBCU deal is set to expire Jan. 1, raising the possibility that NBCU channels would be blacked out on Charter’s Spectrum service at that time. Among NBCU’s cable channels are Bravo, E!, Syfy, USA, MSNBC, CNBC, and Oxygen. Those channels reach 16 million subscribers via Charter Spectrum, making Charter NBCU’s third largest distributor. In a blackout, Spectrum customers in New York and Los Angeles would presumably lose access to NBCU-owned local NBC and Telemundo stations, affecting 2 million customers.

“NBCUniversal values its partnership with Charter Spectrum, our third largest distributor,” an NBCU spokesperson told Variety in a statement. “Charter Spectrum has been unyielding in its demand for terms superior to those agreed to by the rest of the industry, including larger distributors. Given this position, we feel the responsibility to inform viewers that Charter Spectrum may drop NBCUniversal’s networks at the end of the year, including NBC, Telemundo, USA, Bravo and hit shows including the #1 show on TV—Sunday Night Football, WWE, the Golden Globes, This is Us and more.”

NBC will host a high-stakes “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions on Jan. 1. The broadcaster also has scripted programs “This Is Us,” “Blindspot,” and “The Blacklist” set to resume new episodes in the first two weeks of January, and will broadcast the Golden Globe Awards Jan. 8. USA’s “Colony” and “Suits” as well as Syfy’s “The Magicians” are also set to return in early January.

If a blackout were to occur, it would be NBCU that would initiate one with a decision to cut its feed to Charter.

The NBCU marketing campaign includes a website and phone number it encourages Spectrum customers to call to pressure Charter on negotiations, with graphics and video designed to drive viewers to those outlets.

A Charter spokesperson declined to comment.

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  1. Patricia says:

    Why on the world would this effect us!!! This channel has been a part of Latinos every day life❤If we can’t see this channel I’m going to change cable company. We want it back!!!!!

  2. CC92 says:

    About 2 cents from every dollar cable companies spend go to broadcast networks for “retransmission consent”. If cable companies want to stop hiking customers rates, they need to look at where they’re spending some of the other 98 cents.

  3. Kristol says:

    I will not pay another dime for my cable. If prices go up, I am done.

  4. Josey says:

    I won’t miss NBC or MSNBC. I never particularly liked the idea that I was paying for them.

  5. Todd says:

    I saw a few ads on some shows no longer being viewable if this went through. Charter, if you are going to appeal by showing which shows will no longer be viewable, I, for one, wouldn’t use Keeping Up With The Kardasians as an example of a program we could no longer see. Who, in their right mind, would care about never seeing that again???

    • Tanya says:

      Its actually NBC that is posting those at the bottom, whats going on is charter is trying to sign a contract with them without raising the price so high like nbc wants to raise the prices more, those things at the bottom of the screen is nbcs childlike thing to makeseem like its all charters doing, so they will get calls about it to push charter into signitheir contract which is millions more dollars which they want charter to do by increasing rates.

  6. Now’s the perfect time to get Sling and PlayStation Vue instead.

  7. ShadowFalls says:

    I want to first applaud this article for being the first to mention that NBC Universal is owned by Comcast. So few people actually know this. Comcast is Charter’s biggest competition and are now taking this opportunity to abuse their monopoly.

  8. Tanya says:

    What this NBC fails to inform is they want millions more, I can see if its a premium channel that wanted more money like starz or hbo, NBC actually out of all of is the one I believe is being greedy and not thinking about their viewers plus it will cost them more to do this cause they will lose viewers which is how they got their money. When I had dish they did that I was not mad at dish I was mad at the channel due to being unreasonable. I love usa yeah it will suck but its NBCs fault, I still have the wwe app.

  9. V says:

    Greed. What is boils down to is NBC wanting more moey for their channels and blaming Charter for it. We pay enough for TV like it is, shove your greed right up your ***

  10. Ed Ivy says:

    Charter has decided to shoot itself in the foot and create further disdain among its customer base. They have no whole house DVR pm the legacy Charter side and from my friends on the new Time Warner side of the company I hear they want to take TW back to the stoneage as well by stopping support on their DVR service. They haven’t even tried to increase internet speed in Charter legacy areas from a meager 35mbps to match TW’s 100mbps and now they want a war with NBC Universal. Cutting the cord is extremely appealing to me and this move has made me resolute in my desire to go back to basics and to use the 3 Roku units and my Smart TV’s and devices over the Internet to get my entertainment. I just hate that instead of making things better, smarter and faster that they engage in this childish banter. Wasn’t the presidential campaigns enough drama to last for a while. Come on Charter, get real…

  11. Carlos Moreno says:

    What have the customers ever done to you to be treated like this. We all pay our bills. We have had this service for approximatly 25 yrs. We’ve been loyal customers. We pay good money to get the sevice. Please do not let your customer’s downn.

  12. teddajudge says:

    Sounds like bad blood after Comcast couldn’t get Time Warner. The company has clearly gotten too big and consumers are left to pay the price.

    • epicgamerdude54 says:

      I am a person who rarely comments on these articles but Comcast fucked up Texas with crap support and now they are dropping NBC Universal channels… The only other one is literally Frontier (Taken over from Verizon)

  13. David Cobb says:

    Wow. Sling TV looks a whole lot better now. Thanks, Spectrum. :-(

  14. Colleen says:

    I will just quit watching and cancel .

  15. Jeff says:

    All of these are advertiser-supported channels. It seems pretty ridiculous to ask consumers to make up for the sales and programming departments’ shortcomings, which is exactly what will happen when the cable companies pass the additional expense along to its customers. If they can’t make enough selling units because not enough people are watching their shows, maybe they should be making better shows (or doing better marketing) instead of asking people to subsidize shows they aren’t watching..

  16. Dunstan says:

    Just another reason to stop paying for television.

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