WPIX and 3 Other Tribune Stations Go Dark on Cablevision Amid Dispute Over Retrans Fees

Cablevision logo - H 2012

Cablevision logo - H 2012

UPDATED: The cable operator accuses Tribune of demanding fees that are too high because of its parent company's financial woes, but Tribune says it's asking for "less than a penny a day per subscriber."

Several Tribune Broadcasting stations, including WPIX-TV in New York, went dark on Cablevision at midnight Thursday amid a dispute over retransmission consent fees.

Other stations that were affected include CW affiliates WCCT, carried in a small portion of Connecticut, and KWGN in Denver, which is carried in some of Cablevision's Optimum West markets, as well as MyNetwork affiliate WPHL in Philadelphia, available in a small portion of New Jersey.

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In a statement, Cablevision accused Tribune asking for retrans fees that are too high because of parent Tribune Co.'s financial troubles.

"The bankrupt Tribune Co. and the hedge funds and banks that own it, including Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo Gordon & Co. and others, are trying to solve Tribune's financial problems on the backs of Cablevision customers," Cablevision said. "Tribune and their hedge fund owners are demanding tens of millions in new fees for WPIX and other stations they own. They should stop their anti-consumer demands and work productively to reach an agreement."

For its part, Tribune said it wasn't notified that Cablevision was dropping its stations and that the move happened while the two companies were in the middle of negotiations.

"Cablevison took this action despite our offer of an unconditional extension of the current carriage agreement with no change in terms while negotiations continued," Tribune said in a statement. "To be clear, Tribune was willing to provide Cablevision subscribers access to the valuable programming on these stations while working toward a new agreement. Tribune never made any threat to withdraw these stations or any demand that Cablevision remove them. Tribune makes a substantial annual investment in local news, live sports and high-quality entertainment programming. Cablevision has never compensated Tribune for the retransmission of its local stations, which are among the most highly watched channels on Cablevision's lineups."

The company said it has proposed a new deal that would amount "to less than a penny a day per subscriber," which is less than what Cablevision pays to other "less well-watched channels."

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Earlier this year, Tribune was embroiled in a similar dispute with DirecTV that resulted in a four-day blackout of 23 TV stations and WGN America on the satellite TV provider.

The Chicago-based Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy in 2008, a year after the company -- which owns 23 TV stations and several big newspapers -- was purchased by financier Sam Zell in a $13 billion leveraged buyout. In June, a Delaware bankruptcy judge approved a restructuring plan for Tribune Co. to emerge from Chapter 11.