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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Cable Companies are Fighting Over Free Channels

It’s no secret that the cable industry has been slowly crawling toward death. The convoluted cable packages, which are somehow becoming more expensive than ever, are losing a war with streaming services.

You’d think that the well-documented death of TV would lead cable companies to try something new and radical. You’d think that they’d send their best and brightest to work things out in a top-secret hotel lobby. Maybe they would even agree to lower their prices or to push for a new era of digital television that can compete with streaming services. But that’s not what cable companies are doing.

No, cable companies are doing something even more radical. They’re publicly arguing over free channels. The Spectrum cable company and the Tribune broadcasting company have begun a war over TV channels that anyone can access with an old-fashioned antenna.

Tribune owns most major over-the-air networks, like CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC. These are locally broadcasted channels that you can pick up with an antenna. They’re not exclusive to cable networks. But Tribune holds licensing contracts with most major cable companies, and these contracts allow the cable companies to include Tribune channels in their lineup.

One of these cable companies, the Charter-owned service called Spectrum, was set to renew their contract with Tribune on New Year’s Eve. But the contract hasn’t been signed, and all Tribune networks have been removed from Spectrum’s cable service.

Why wasn’t the contract signed? Well, Spectrum built an oddly aggressive webpage to tell their cable subscribers that they can’t afford to renew Tribune’s contract. They claim that Tribune is “driven by greed,” and that they’re demanding “over 50% more” cash than what they used to.

But Tribune has posted a press release on their website, detailing how “extremely disappointed” they are that Spectrum won’t agree to renew the contract. Using the NFL playoffs as leverage, Tribune details how the “NFL playoffs are in jeopardy,” and how they “don’t want Spectrum subscribers to miss these games.” Of course, they could just watch the games for free online or over the air.

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