Verizon Fios customers on Thursday regained access to key broadcast channels, including WUSA the CBS station in the nation’s capital, that had been blacked out for days because of a contract dispute with a major media company, Tegna.
Verizon and Tegna said in a statement that they had reached “a multiyear carriage agreement” that restores stations including WVEC, a local ABC station in Norfolk, and WGRZ, the NBC station in Buffalo, ending an outage that had affected what analysts estimated was about 1 million Verizon customers nationwide.
The resolution comes just days before high-profile sports events this weekend, such as the NFL playoffs, which are broadcast in part on CBS and NBC and are among the most-watched shows of the year. Tegna and Verizon declined to comment on the specifics of the deal.
The Tegna dispute was just one of several blackouts that have swept the country in recent weeks as many content companies' contracts with TV providers came up for renewal at the end of 2018. Blackouts hit TV viewers as many as 140 times last year, according to the American Television Alliance, a trade association representing distributors and independent programmers.
This week, Verizon resolved a separate carriage dispute with Disney, which prevented ESPN and ABC from going dark on Fios customers in numerous markets. But HBO’s programming dispute with Dish Network remains unresolved.
On Wednesday, broadcast channels in major markets suddenly went dark for Spectrum TV customers as Charter Communications — the nation’s second-largest cable company with over 16 million TV subscribers — failed to sign a new programming contract with Tribune Media.
As many as 24 markets are affected by the TV blackout, including Denver, Houston, New York, Los Angeles and St. Louis. Tribune pulled its signal at 5 p.m. Eastern time after negotiations stalled.
Charter subscribers can still catch the NFL playoffs through other means, such as by streaming games on Yahoo Sports or the National Football League app. But some alternatives require consumers to pay additional fees.
Tribune, which controls 33 broadcast stations across the affected markets, had asked Charter to pay more than twice what it currently does for the same content going forward, said Charter spokeswoman Nathalie Burgos.
“That is more than we pay any other broadcaster. They’re not being reasonable,” Charter said in a statement.
Providers such as Charter must pay significant sums to programming companies for the right to distribute their shows and channels. But as more Americans have canceled their cable subscriptions in recent years, financial pressure has risen for both sides as each seeks to adapt to shifting consumer tastes.
Tribune said as many as 6 million Charter subscribers have lost access to news, weather and traffic from their local broadcast stations as a result of the breakdown. As many as 14 million have lost access to WGN America, Tribune’s basic cable channel, across Charter’s entire network, it said.
“We’re extremely disappointed we do not have an agreement on the renewal of our contract with Spectrum,” said Gary Weitman, Tribune’s senior vice president for corporate relations. “We’ve offered Spectrum fair market rates … Spectrum has refused our offer and failed to negotiate in a meaningful fashion.”
Spectrum is a brand under which Charter markets its services.