Verizon Warns Fios Customers That Hearst TV Channels May Go Dark Amid Contract Dispute

Telco claims Hearst TV is asking for rate increases of more than 45%

Verizon Fios

In a new end-of-the-year TV carriage fight, Verizon on Tuesday began notifying Fios TV customers that Hearst Television stations may go dark on Fios as of Jan. 1 — with the telco claiming Hearst is demanding fee hikes of more than 45% to carry its local channels.

Verizon’s current agreement with Hearst TV expires Dec. 31. There are nine Hearst-owned channels in danger of getting pulled off Fios: WCVB (ABC and MeTV) in Boston, WMUR (ABC) in Manchester, N.H., WGAL (NBC and MeTV) in Harrisburg, Pa., WBAL (NBC and MeTV) in Baltimore, and WTAE (ABC and Cozi TV) in Pittsburgh.

Hearst Television has demanded that Verizon “pay increases of over 45%, so you can continue watching its channels. This is like the price of a loaf of bread going from $2.50 to more than $3.60 overnight,” the telco says in a notice on its website about the spat.

“While millions of Americans are struggling in an ongoing pandemic, Hearst Television has demanded Verizon pay increases so high that it might force customers’ monthly bills to go up,” Verizon said in a statement.

A rep for Hearst Television declined to comment.

Meanwhile, a Verizon rep said that “we also believe Gray Television might take a similar approach with its stations that Verizon carries, WWBT-NBC and WUVP-CW in Richmond, based on their actions with other companies.”

“Affordable local news is vital and customers want quality at-home entertainment, especially during a pandemic, so Verizon is surprised that Hearst Television is demanding pay increases that might keep Fios customers from watching their channels,” Verizon said in its statement. “We urge Hearst Television to get serious about reaching a fair agreement and hope they will not remove their channels while negotiations continue.”