Fox Networks is turning on the heat in its carriage negotiations with Charter Communications, warning the distributor’s nearly 17 million residential customers that they may lose access to certain channels if an agreement isn’t reached by April 8.
According to people familiar with the situation, Fox’s carriage deal with Charter actually expired on March 31, but the parties have been negotiating back and forth for several months. Apparently those talks have hit a snag.
Fox is peppering its linear and online networks with ads warning customers that they could lose access to popular shows, as well as Major League Baseball games and the National Basketball Association playoffs on its sports channels. It has also set up a website – Keepmynets.com – for subscribers seeking more information.
The potential blackout would affect FX Networks, Fox Sports, Fox Deportes, National Geographic channels, and Fox’s regional sports networks in Charter territory across the country. Not affected by the possible blackout are Fox broadcast stations, Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel.
“Fox and Charter have an agreement to carry the Fox networks that Charter has chosen to ignore,” Fox said in a statement. “We’re disappointed that despite our best efforts to reach a resolution, Charter Spectrum subscribers could lose access to multiple Fox sports and entertainment networks on April 8. Charter’s tactics could result in its subscribers missing our popular programming including Fox Sports’ telecasts of the St. Louis Cardinals and Blues, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cincinnati Reds and many other MLB, NBA and NHL teams on Fox Regional Sports Networks, Fox Deportes, National Geographic, and FX’s hit dramas The Americans and Feud as well as much more award winning programming.”
Fox is asking subscribers to contact Charter to ensure their stations remain on the air. In the event of an impasse, Fox has provided a list of other providers on the website that have current agreements with the programmer that customers could switch to.
The dispute is the latest go-round in what has become a common occurrence -- networks and distributors clashing publicly as they try to privately hammer out deals. While the reasons behind the disputes vary, they usually center around broader distrbiution rights and money. This one appears to be focused on money.
“Fox is trying to gouge our customers using the increasingly common tactic of threats and removal of programming,” Charter said in a statement. “They are attempting to extort Charter for hundreds of millions of dollars. We will continue to work towards a fair agreement.