Univision Communications, locked in a months-long legal battle with Charter Communications regarding carriage fees, finally pulled the trigger early Wednesday, darkening its Spanish language television stations and networks to Charter customers across the country.
Univision sued Charter in July over what it said was the cable operator’s refusal to pay it the fees it beleived it was contracted to receive. Charter, which completed its $80 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable in May, had been paying the lower Time Warner Cable rate for legacy Charter systems. Since Time Warner Cable was the larger of the two entities before they merged – TWC had 11 million video customers compared to Charter’s 4.1 million – the fees it paid the network were considerably smaller.
Univision had warned that it may have to pull its signal from Charter customers if a deal wasn't reached. In a statement, Univision said it had tried unsuccessfully to reach an agreement with the distributor.
“Charter Communications has continually rejected all of UCI’s repeated, good-faith efforts to reach an agreement,” Univision said in a statement. “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.”
Charter has been steadfast in its refusal to budge, claiming that it is adhering to the letter of its agreement with the programmer.
"We have a contract with Univision and we expect them to honor it," Charter said in a statement.
Univision said Charter customers have supported the programmer’s stance through an “outpouring of calls” to the cable operator, but still no deal has been reached.
Univision is the largest Spanish language broadcaster in the U.S. with about 23 stations across the country, including in major Hispanic markets like Los Angeles and New York, which also happen to be Charter strongholds. Its portfolio includes the UniMas broadcast network and cable network Galavision, UDN, Fusion and a minority stake in El Rey Network. Univision argues that the loss of the stations could leave a large segment of the population without a voice.
“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,” Univision said in a statement. “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.”