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Tribune Media Stations Go Dark on Charter Communications Systems

Tribune Media stations and cabler WGN America have gone dark on Charter Communications systems in 24 markets after the sides could not come to terms on a new carriage agreement.

The companies had been negotiating a new deal on and off for weeks against a Dec. 31 deadline for 33 local TV stations and WGN America. The companies set a two-day extension on New Year’s Eve in an effort to finish a deal.

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,” Charter said in a statement Wednesday. “They’re not being reasonable.”

The blackout affects about 6 million subscribers across the country, including such major markets as New York (WPIX-TV), Los Angeles (KTLA) and Dallas (KDAF). For WGN America, which airs nationally across Charter’s systems, the subscriber loss is about 14 million homes.

Tribune maintains that Charter dragged its heels in the talks and has not budged in the negotiations. The company emphasized that viewers in some markets will lose access to NFL games via Tribune’s Fox affiliates. Charter countered that the games are also available via the NFL’s streaming app.

“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,” Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said. “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. Spectrum has refused our offer and failed to negotiate in a meaningful fashion.”

The tussle between Tribune and Charter reflects the increasing tensions between programmers and distributors at a time when the pay-TV industry is in transition.

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