23 Vi­a­com chan­nels may go dark on Spec­trum

Tampa Bay Times - - Business - BY MELISSA GOMEZ Times Staff Writer Con­tact Melissa Gomez at mgomez@tam­pabay.com. Fol­low @melis­sagomez004.

Spec­trum par­ent Char­ter and Vi­a­com, owner of Com­edy Cen­tral, BET and MTV, are locked in a dis­pute, and their cur­rent deal ends Sun­day.

A dis­pute be­tween two ca­ble in­dus­try con­glom­er­ates could threaten your abil­ity to watch South Park, Be­ing Mary Jane and Cat­fish: The TV Show.

Vi­a­com, which owns 23 ca­ble chan­nels in­clud­ing BET, Com­edy Cen­tral and MTV, put out a state­ment Wed­nes­day that it was at a stand­still in con­tract re­newal ne­go­ti­a­tions with Char­ter Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, which also mar­kets it­self as Spec­trum. Vi­a­com said it has made “a se­ries of very at­trac­tive of­fers” to Char­ter, which has turned them down.

If a deal isn’t met by Sun­day’s con­tract ex­pi­ra­tion date, it’s pos­si­ble that the 23 chan­nels could go dark.

“De­spite our ef­forts, Char­ter con­tin­ues to in­sist on un­rea­son­able and ex­treme terms that are to­tally in­con­sis­tent with the mar­ket,” Vi­a­com said in its state­ment. “While we’re mak­ing ev­ery ef­fort to reach a new deal, Char­ter’s ac­tions may force a dis­rup­tion in their ser­vice.”

Vi­a­com states its of­fers would lower rates for cus­tomers.

Char­ter spokesman Joe Durkin de­clined to com­ment.

Char­ter came to the Tampa Bay area in 2016 af­ter it ac­quired Bright House Net­works. In Au­gust, there were re­ports of Char­ter pos­si­bly get­ting bought by Ja­panese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pany SoftBank Group Corp., which owns Sprint Corp.

Char­ter has a mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion of $119 bil­lion and $60 bil­lion in debt.

By Wed­nes­day night, Vi­a­com be­gan run­ning “crawls” at the bot­tom of the screen, no­ti­fy­ing cus­tomers that they could lose chan­nels. The mes­sages also tell cus­tomers that they should con­tact Spec­trum about the pos­si­ble loss.

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