Charter to Univision: You can’t breach an expired contract

Charter van

As it waits for the courts to decide the validity of a post-merger strategy to use the more desirable programming contracts of acquisition Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications has come up with what appears to be a novel defense against breach-of-contract claims filed against it by several programmers. 

Essentially, Charter has told the courts that it can’t breach programming contracts that are already expired. 

In court documents pertaining to Univision’s breach-of-contract suit against it, Charter declares, "It is a matter of basic contract law that a plaintiff cannot state a breach of contract claim for an expired contract."

Indeed, Charter’s legacy deal with Univision recently expired, but TWC’s deal doesn’t end until 2022. Charter has structured its deal so that the newly combined MSO, which also includes the assets of Bright House Networks, appears under the control of TWC. 

CBS Corp. and 21st Century Fox have also cried foul and have filed breach-of-contract lawsuits. 

The breach-of-contract suits seek to invalidate Charter’s strategy, which the programmers say is depriving them of receiving current-market licensing rates for their channels. 

"Univision is unable to point to any provision of the Charter contract that would contractually entitle Univision to negotiate a new contract, much less one at a self-described 'market rate,' " Charter added in its motion. 

For more:
- read this Hollywood Reporter story
- read this Financial Times story (sub. req.)

Related articles:
Programmer lawsuits beg question: Who bought who in Charter-TWC deal?
Charter sued by Univision, which says MSO is improperly leveraging TWC carriage deal
Fox News is latest programmer to sue Charter for leveraging TWC contracts