Wisconsin cable television subscribers would not be among the nearly 17 million Charter Communications customers who may not get Sunday’s Green Bay Packers game because of a dispute between the cable company and NBCUniveral.
NBC stations in Green Bay and Detroit, which are owned independently of NBC, are among those that won’t be affected by the disagreement between the network and Charter, which owns Time Warner Cable, said Caley Gray, a spokeswoman for NBCUniversal.
“The good people of Green Bay can rest easy,” Gray said.
Nor will the broadcast be blacked out in other parts of Wisconsin, or on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The customers whose NBC coverage would be blacked out live in about a dozen large markets where NBC owns stations, including Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia and San Diego. Over-the-air broadcasts in those markets would not be affected.
Should the pay-TV provider and programmer not reach an agreement, those customers could miss the crucial Sunday Night Football game between the Packers and Detroit Lions — the winner earns the NFC North crown. They could also miss two outdoor hockey games, Sunday’s Centennial Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings and the Winter Classic featuring the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, and Monday’s Tournament of Roses Parade.
Packers fans in cities affected by the dispute have some options if the issue is not resolved:
► Friends who have DirecTV, or another provider not affected by the Charter-NBC dispute, can watch via NBC.
► Over-the-air broadcasts of NBC will still be available. In the digital age, however, some TVs require a specialized antenna — available at many electronics stores — to receive and decode an over-the-air signal.
► Sports bars and other establishments may be able to show the game. The PackersEverywhere.com website has a searchable database of bars that regularly show Green Bay games. It’s worth taking a minute to call ahead, however, to confirm that a particular business will have the broadcast.
Overall, the blackout could result in Charter dropping other NBCUniversal networks such as Bravo and USA for Charter’s 16.9 million Spectrum pay-TV subscribers nationwide.
Charter and Time Warner Cable serve customers throughout much of Wisconsin.
NBC said the negotiations are at an impasse.
“NBCUniversal values its partnership with Charter Spectrum, our third largest distributor,” the company said in a statement. “Charter Spectrum has been unyielding in its demand for terms superior to those agreed to by the rest of the industry, including larger distributors. Given this position, we feel the responsibility to inform viewers that Charter Spectrum may drop NBCUniversal’s networks at the end of the year, including NBC, Telemundo, USA, Bravo and hit shows including the #1 show on TV — Sunday Night Football, WWE, the Golden Globes, This Is Us and more.”
Stamford, Conn.-based Charter declined comment except to say it would be the programmer not making its content available that leads to a blackout.
Charter acquired New York-headquartered Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks earlier this year for a combined $65.5 billion (excluding debt) to become the second-largest cable TV and Internet provider with a total of 24.5 million residential customers (16.9 million pay-TV customers). Comcast, the largest provider at nearly 29 million, had tried to acquire TWC, but gave up under regulators’ scrutiny.
The NBCUniversal-Charter carriage dispute is the largest, but not the only one being debated. DirecTV is negotiating retransmission deals with Hearst Television, which owns 30 TV stations, and Cox Media, with 15 stations. Meanwhile, Dish Network is negotiating with Griffin Communications to keep two Oklahoma stations on its system.
Carriage disputes are a perennial occurrence, says TVPredictions.com publisher and president Phil Swann. “Deals are made with multi-year terms and they end at year’s end,” he said. “More times than not, they get settled before blackout. But you never know, which causes viewer anxiety.”
NBCUniversal has created a DeliverMyShows.com site to inform subscribers about the situation. “NBCUniversal has a strong record of completing these deals without interruption,” it says on the site. “We don’t like involving viewers in this process, but we are concerned that Spectrum is not interested in carrying our networks and feel we have a responsibility to inform viewers if NBCUniversal programming will be dropped.”
USATODAY reporter Mike Snider contributed to this story.