Tribune Co. forced Cablevision Systems to drop its Hartford Fox affiliate, WTIC, as well as WGN America and AntennaTV at around midnight Saturday, as the companies' standoff over retransmission fees entered its second week.
On Aug. 17, Cablevision pulled four Tribune station feeds, complaining that Tribune was demanding tens of millions in new fees: WPIX (The CW) in New York; WCCT (CW) in Waterbury, Conn.; KWGN (CW) in Denver; and Philadelphia's WPHL (MyNetwork). Cablevision saying Tribune was demanding an tens of millions of dollars in new fees.
Cablevision has accused the broadcaster of trying to "illegally tie" an agreement to carry Hartford's WTIC with New York's WPIX and other stations, a charge Tribune denied.
"After causing the blackout of WPIX on Cablevision a week ago, the Tribune Company has now pulled the plug on Fox CT in Hartford, even after Cablevision agreed to pay all the fees they demanded for this station," Cablevision said in a statement Saturday. "Tribune is illegally tying carriage of Fox CT to less-popular channels they also own, in an attempt to extract tens of millions in new fees from Cablevision customers. We call on Tribune to return Fox CT to our customers and work with us to reach a new agreement."
Tribune countered that Cablevision has "never compensated Tribune for the rebroadcast of WTIC-TV while Tribune has continued to make significant investments in high quality programming." The broadcaster said previously defended its negotiating approach as "completely lawful, and fully complies with the FCC's good-faith negotiation rules."
"This is an extremely unfortunate situation and we're disappointed that Cablevision refuses to recognize the value of these channels to our viewers," Tribune Broadcasting president Nils Larsen said in a statement. "We remain far apart in negotiations and urge subscribers to call Cablevision and to express themselves through social media, including Twitter and Facebook."
WTIC in Hartford is the exclusive source of Fox network programming for approximately 50,000 Cablevision customers, primarily in the Litchfield area of Connecticut. Most of Cablevision's Connecticut customers continue to have access to Fox programming through the New York affiliate, WNYW, the cable company said.
WGN America is carried in a small section of Cablevision's Connecticut and Optimum West (the former Bresnan Communications) service areas.
Cablevision has set up a website at www.cablevision.com/tribune with info for subscribers, while Tribune has several, including KeepFOXCT.com, KeepPIX11.com, KeepWGNAmerica.com and KeepAntennaTV.com.