Two St. Louis-based TV channels went off the air Wednesday night as part of a nationwide contractual dispute involving their parent company and Charter’s Spectrum service.
Tribune Broadcasting television stations in 24 markets across the United States are no longer available to Charter’s Spectrum subscribers via the company’s cable systems. The contract between Tribune Broadcasting and Spectrum expired at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The channels included KTVI and KPLR in St. Louis, known locally as Channels 2 and 11. KTVI is an affiliate of the Fox network and KPLR is an affiliate of CW network.
Approximately six million viewers have lost access to the local news, traffic, weather, sports and entertainment programming provided by the company’s 33 television stations via Spectrum. Spectrum is a brand of Charter Communications which was launched in 2014 and used to market consumer cable television, Internet, and telephone provided by the company, and formerly provided by Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, which Charter Communications acquired in May 2016.
In addition to local news, such programming as the National Football League playoffs and NCAA basketball may be lost. At the same time, more than 14 million subscribers nationwide have also lost access to WGN America, Tribune’s basic cable entertainment network.
“We’re extremely disappointed that we do not have an agreement on the renewal of our contract with Spectrum,” said Gary Weitman, Tribune Media’s senior vice president for corporate relations. “The NFL playoffs are in jeopardy—beginning this weekend with critical games in some key markets like Indianapolis and Seattle. We don’t want Spectrum subscribers to miss these games.”
“We’ve offered Spectrum fair market rates for our top-rated local news, live sports and high-quality entertainment programming, and similarly fair rates for our cable network, WGN America,” Weitman said. “Spectrum has refused our offer and failed to negotiate in a meaningful fashion.”
A scrawl running on KPLR said, “Tribune Broadcasting has removed this channel temporarily due to a programming dispute over the cost for Fox and CBS stations in a few other cities.
“We will keep you informed on our progress in holding down ridiculous cost increases from the company.
“Our negotiations are about one thing; reaching an agreement that is fair to our customers.
“We hope to be able to return this programming soon. Thank you for your patience.”
Charter said in a statement that it was “unfortunate” it could not reach an agreement with Tribune, adding that the broadcaster is demanding an increase of more than double the rate it is currently paying for the same programming.
“That is more than we pay any other broadcaster,” Charter said in a statement. “They’re not being reasonable.”