Early Wednesday morning, customers of Charter Spectrum cable found that they no longer had access to any Univision networks. Networks including Univision, Unimás, Galavisión, Univision Deportes and El Rey seemed to have just vanished.
The blackout, which lasted 36 hours and affected 2.5 million Latino homes throughout the nation, was not a mistake. It happened because of money. Specifically, how much money Charter Spectrum should be paying Univision in carriage fees.
The blackout ended due to a ruling by New York Superior Court Justice Salianna Scarpulla. A Charter Spectrum spokesperson said in a statement, “Today, the Supreme Court for the state of New York granted Charter a temporary restraining order, meaning that Univision programming will be returned to our customers.”
Univision released their own statement, which reads:
“A judge who was temporarily assigned to our case today said that she planned to issue an order that Univision’s networks and stations had to be restored on Charter Spectrum for 7 days. This order only lasts until February 9, when the judge permanently assigned to the litigation is back in court. For the 7-day period that it is receiving Univision’s services, Charter Spectrum will be required to post a bond covering the actual market value of Univision’s programming, rather than the inadequate rates that Charter Spectrum has been paying. Univision remains ready and willing to meet at any time with Charter Spectrum to engage in comprehensive, good-faith negotiations for the long-term carriage of our stations and networks. To date, Charter Spectrum has steadfastly refused to engage in such negotiations.”
The carriage fee dispute between the two companies has been going on for quite some time. Six months ago, Univision filed a suit against Charter Spectrum for breach of contract over carrier fees. Univision explained in a statement:
“Charter insists that the contract Univision had with Time Warner Cable is controlling, rather than its own contract with Univision. Charter bases this argument on the preposterous theory that as a result of the merger, Time Warner Cable, rather than Charter, is managing all these cable systems. But everyone knows that is not true: the longstanding CEO and the executive team of Charter, as well as its pre-existing board of directors, now manage and control all of the cable systems.”
So even though Charter Spectrum acquired Time Warner Cable, they wanted to keep the deal that TWC had negotiated with Univision because it’s a better deal, but Univision was like, “not so fast, we didn’t make that deal with you.”
All this behind-the-scenes bickering is what led to the blackout. Univision demanded that Charter Spectrum stop broadcasting their networks, and that’s why on February 1, there was a whole mess of confused customers staring at a blue screen.
Hopefully, Univision and Charter Spectrum will find a way to work together because Univision is the country’s largest Spanish-language media company, which means many Spanish speakers depend on it as a news source. Father Richard Estrada of Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights told the Los Angeles Times, “People are afraid and nervous of what [President] Trump will do next. A lack of access to news and information will only make things worse. It makes you wonder, ‘What’s next? What will they take away next?’”