Univision has followed through on a threat to black out its stations on Charter Communications systems.
The decision, executed Wednesday, follows months of litigation between the Spanish-language broadcaster and Charter. Univision sued the MSO last summer, shortly after the cable company closed on its acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
Univision has accused Charter of trying to improperly leverage the superior terms of TWC’s deal with Univision. Charter’s legacy agreement with Univision has expired.
“Charter Communications has continually rejected all of UCI’s repeated, good-faith efforts to reach an agreement. As a result, Charter has decided to deny its subscribers continued access to Hispanic America’s most popular entertainment and sports, and most trusted news content,” Univision said in a statement.
“Over the past few days, Charter’s subscribers have demonstrated an overwhelming level of support for Univision’s content through an outpouring of calls to Charter. Despite this huge customer outcry, Charter still refuses to value Univision’s content and the audience we serve. Charter’s recent acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse, making it the second largest cable and broadband company in the U.S., gives it immense marketplace power,” Univision added.
Earlier this week, Charter released a terse statement: “We have a contract with Univision and expect them to honor it,” it read.
It’s unclear as to how many Univision O&Os are affected by the blackout. But Charter is the biggest cable operator in Los Angeles, New York and a number of Texas markets with large Hispanic consumer bases. Furthermore, the blackout comes during a high-water period for Spanish-language news viewing, with a new president drawing up a series of highly polarizing immigration policies.
Charter is actually fighting a three-front war over essentially the same pricing policy, with 21st Century Fox and CBS Corp./Showtime also filing lawsuits last year.
In fact, earlier this week, Charter hit back at Fox with a countersuit, alleging the programmer violated most favored nation (MFN) contract clauses in regard to licensing Fox News.
In its statement over the Charter blackout, Univision added, “Given the size of the distribution platforms that it controls, Charter has an obligation to its customers to provide them with access to content that is in-language and in-culture, which is vitally important during these politically volatile times. This is part of a continuing fight against mega mergers to ensure that there are diverse voices and opportunities for minorities in the media marketplace. Univision’s top priority remains steadfast: Providing critical news and information to empower and serve the Hispanic community. We are ready to resume good faith negotiations immediately and hope Charter will do what is right for its Hispanic customers.”