It’s a very frequent occurrence for cable customers to lose channels due to carriage disputes between their cable company and the company that owns the channels. This has been known to happen, especially with sports channels, preventing sports fans from being able to watch their favorite team for whole seasons.
It’s much less frequent for the company that owns the channels and the cable company to be one and the same, but that appears to be the case, for a potential dispute involving Comcast.
According to a warning sent to Comcast customers, as first reported by The Desk, Comcast’s “Upcoming Contract Renewals” page lists several channels that could potentially drop off of Comcast packages in the coming months.
The December list includes several channels, including Bravo, CNBC, The Golf Channel, MSNBC, and NBC Sports channels in the Bay Area, Boston, California, and Washington, as well as the main national NBC Sports network, that are Comcast-owned. Also on the list of channels possibly dropping off in December are a number of local TV stations.
“Most of the channels that we offer our customers are owned by media companies other than Comcast. We obtain the rights to carry those channels pursuant to contracts with those companies,” Comcast wrote in the notice, and also on the page.
“In the next few months, our contracts for the channels listed below may expire. We expect that we will be able to reach an agreement with the owners of these channels to continue carrying them well into the future. Comcast has successfully renegotiated thousands of expiring contracts over the years and rarely experienced an interruption of service. However, it is possible that contracts for the channels listed below will not be renewed, in which case Comcast would no longer have the right to carry those channels on our systems.”
The negotiations would presumably take place between different subsidiaries of Comcast, making it likely that a deal will eventually be reached. However, The Desk stated that “any rate Comcast sets for itself could influence how much the cable distributor charges its rivals like AT&T, Charter/Spectrum and Dish Network for carriage of its broadcast and cable networks on those platforms.”
Among the potential expirations for October include FX, the FX Movie Channel, FX, and National Geographic, as well as local channels in several cities.
Comcast, especially during the pandemic, has been losing traditional cable subscribers, but at the same time has gained Internet subscribers. The company lost 477,000 pay-TV subscribers in the second quarter of 2020, while at the same time gaining 323,000 high-speed Internet subscribers. The company had lost 400,000 pay TV subscribers in the first quarter of the year. Comcast is set to announce its third-quarter earnings this Thursday.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver. Image: Reuters