Tribune warns cable customers of blackouts ahead of NFL playoffs

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Tribune Media Company is warning Spectrum cable subscribers of a possible blackout in early 2019, threatening more than 6 million customers’ access to NFL playoff games and other programming.

Gary Weitman, Tribune’s vice president of corporate relations, accused Spectrum of being uncooperative in contract negotiations.

“The NFL playoffs begin Jan. 5 and we want football fans in our markets to be able to watch these games and root for their favorite teams — we want to reach an agreement with Spectrum,” Weitman said in a statement. “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. Spectrum has refused our offer.”

{mosads}If the two sides fail to reach an agreement, Tribune’s programming will be blacked out for Spectrum’s customers on Jan. 1. Tribune owns many local stations, including CBS and Fox affiliates with rights to NFL games.

The looming threat of a blackout comes as a similar dispute is playing out between Disney and Verizon, whose contract ends on Dec. 31.

HBO was also blacked out for the first time in its history over a contract dispute with Dish Network, just months after the popular network’s parent company Time Warner was bought by AT&T. The two sides remain in a stalemate.

“We are negotiating with Tribune and we hope to reach a fair agreement,” a spokesperson for Charter Communications, which operates under the Spectrum brand, said in a statement.

Weitman urged customers to contact Spectrum with any concerns about a possible blackout.

“We are only a few days away from the deadline to reach an agreement with Spectrum, just as we have done with every one of our other cable, satellite and telco distributors,” he said. “We felt that now was the time to begin telling Spectrum subscribers that they may lose access to our stations and the programming they provide.”

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