Should You Switch TV Providers?
We hope you won’t. Here’s why: Often, a station or network will tell you to switch providers, if you want to get their programming. They do this so they can demand a higher fee from your TV provider. But channel owners can avoid any interruption to you by keeping their signal on while they negotiate. In a dispute, it is the channel owners that pull their signals, not the TV provider.
All TV providers face the same challenges. If you switch to a different provider, you unintentionally support the channel owners’ excessive demands. And after you switch, you could find yourself in the same situation with your new TV provider. (Making matters worse, other TV providers might lock you into a contract that you can’t get out of without paying significant penalties.)
If channel owners had your best interests in mind, they would offer solutions that put you first and not tell you to switch providers.
Here is a list of recent disputes.
- DIRECTV and Vision Alaska LLC
In Feb. 2013, Vision Alaska LLC removed its ABC-affiliated stations in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau from DIRECTV, after the latter refused to pay almost eight times more than the previous agreement. Vision Alaska first went dark on DIRECTV from Jan. 5 through Jan. 7, and almost six weeks later Vision Alaska pulled its channels again, right before the Oscars on Feb. 24. The two companies finally reached an agreement in March 2013.
- Cable ONE, AMC and WE tv
After a lengthy dispute, Cable ONE reached a multi-year agreement with AMC Networks on March 15, 2013. AMC had asked for a substantial increase from the cable provider. Over the past few years, AMC has also battled publically with Suddenlink, Verizon FiOS, and DISH Network.
- DIRECTV and Sinclair Broadcast Group
In Feb. 2013, Sinclair Broadcast Group threatened to pull 87 TV stations (including Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and other affiliates) from DIRECTV customers in 47 markets, unless DIRECTV paid increased retransmission-consent fees. An agreement was reached between the two companies in March 2013.
- DISH Network and Grant Group
After Grant Group removed 4 Fox stations (in Huntsville, AL; Roanoke, VA; La Crosse, WI; and Davenport, IA) plus 2 CW stations (in Roanoke and Davenport) from DISH Network’s customers on Feb. 15, 2013, the channels were restored over a week later.
- DISH Network and Ramar Communications
On 2/1/13, Ramar Communications blocked four local channels – Fox, CW, Telemundo and MyNetwork affiliates – from DISH Network in Lubbock, TX. DISH reported that Ramar asked for three times the amount they were already paying. Service was restored to customers in April 2013 after the companies reached a multi-year agreement.
- Service Electric Cablevision and News Corp/FOX
News Corp/Fox threatened to pull their networks from Service Electric Cablevision customers for days before reaching an agreement late on 12/31/12. The agreement affects about 100,000 subs in the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Philadelphia designated market areas.
- Cablevision and Viacom
Viacom threatened to remove 19 of its channels, including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV, from Cablevision’s lineup. The two companies came to an agreement just shy of the deal's expiration date of 12/31/12. Cablevision serves Long Island and other parts of the NYC market.
- DIRECTV and Northwest Broadcasting
Northwest pulled its stations from DIRECTV the week of August 13, 2012. After 11 weeks, Northwest and DIRECTV came to an agreement and Northwest put their stations back on DIRECTV.
- DIRECTV and Viacom
After nine days of Viacom channels being dark on DIRECTV, the parties came to an agreement on July 20, 2012.
- DIRECTV and Tribune
Tribune Co. and DirecTV reached a deal on April 4, 2012, ending a four-day blackout of 23 Tribune stations and WGN America.
- DISH Network and Dispatch Networks
On August 29, 2012, Dish offered an extension to Dispatch to help avoid any service disruption, but Dispatch did not accept. Dispatch was asking for a 500% increase in fees. On September 1, the networks went dark. On October 25, Dish and Dispatch reached an agreement and the channels were restored.
- DISH Network and Hoak Media
In June 2012, Hoak Media pulled 14 channels in six states from DISH Network. After a six-day blackout, the channels were restored.
- U-verse and Fox Sports Midwest
Fox Sports Midwest asked for a fee increase after it picked up 20 St. Louis Cardinals games in 2011. Those games had been on the local NBC station, where viewers could watch them for no additional charge. AT&T maintained that it didn't want to pass the increased programming cost on to its U-verse TV customers.
- Time Warner Cable and Hearst
On July 10, 2012, 13 stations in 11 markets went dark due to a breakdown in negotiations. On July 19, TWC and Hearst reached an agreement covering stations in markets from Boston to Honolulu.
- Cablevision and Tribune
On August 16, 2012, Tribune blacked out stations WPIX, WCCT, KWGN and WPHL for Cablevision customers. On October 26, an agreement was reached.
- Verizon FiOS and Newport Television
In January 2012, Newport Television pulled local stations in Syracuse (WSYR), Albany (WXXA) and Harrisburg (WHP) from Verizon FiOS. After a two-day blackout, the stations were restored.
- DIRECTV and Gannett
DIRECTV and Gannett's 23 local stations came to an agreement on December 1, 2012 -- just moments before Gannett was prepared to pull its channels from the DIRECTV line up. Affected cities included Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Denver.
- DIRECTV and Local TV, LLC
During the week of Aug. 27, 2012, a dispute began between Local TV and DIRECTV. Their previous agreement ended on September 1. On Aug. 31, an agreement was reached.
- What is retransmission consent and what is a renewal?
These terms describe essentially the same thing. A renewal is the process that happens when the owner of a cable network or group of cable networks negotiates a new contract with a TV service provider like Suddenlink. Retransmission consent is the legal term for the process that happens when the owner of a TV station or group of TV stations negotiates a new contract with a TV service provider.
- Why doesn’t Suddenlink just pay what TV stations and cable networks demand, so that I can continue to get my shows?
It’s our goal to provide you a great programming line up at a reasonable price. When the owners of TV stations and cable networks ask for more money, we negotiate with them in an effort to keep costs as low as possible. By holding firm in our negotiations, we’ve kept your annual price increases, on average, between 3% and 5%, which is well below the level that many channel owners demand during negotiations. Some channel owners are asking for 20%, 30%, 50%, or even higher increases in what they’re paid – and often for the exact same set of channels. Imagine the impact on your household budget, if we accepted these excessive demands for just one channel, let alone all the channels we offer.
- Why shouldn’t I just switch TV providers?
Unfortunately, disputes between TV service providers and channel owners are more and more commonplace these days. For instance, both DIRECTV and Dish have lost channels for significant periods of time.
The fact is that channel owners can avoid any interruption to you by keeping their channels on our line up while they negotiate with us. During a dispute, it is the channel owners that pull their signals, not the TV provider.
If you switch to a different TV provider, you unintentionally support the channel owners’ excessive demands. And after you switch, you could find yourself in the same situation with your new TV provider, when its contracts with channel owners expire.
Suddenlink is proud of our track record during negotiations and our goal is to control costs and do our very best not to lose a moment of programming.
- If channels are temporarily suspended, what are my viewing options?
In each situation, we’ll communicate viewing alternatives, when and where they’re available.
- How can I provide my feedback?
When disputes happen, we will provide an opportunity for customers to offer feedback to channel owners and to us through the dispute-specific areas of this site.
- Why do channel owners take their channels away from TV providers?
This is an unfortunate tactic that channel owners use to gain leverage in their negotiations. What’s more, before and after they remove channels, they may ask you to call and/or email your TV service provider in an attempt to put pressure on the provider to cave in to the channel owners’ excessive fee increases.
- How do I know if I need to worry about losing channels?
Suddenlink is on your side from the time negotiations start until the time we reach an agreement, and we promise to keep you updated on our progress.
- If you are trying to control costs, why does my bill seem to go up every year?
While we pledge to hold prices as low as possible, annual adjustments are necessary due to the rising cost of TV programming and other factors. In fact, the cost of basic cable networks and broadcast TV stations combined are increasing more than 8.5% year-over-year. Suddenlink absorbs a portion of those increases and passes along a portion to customers. We’re able to absorb some of these cost increases because we stand up to channel owners in our negotiations, resisting their excessive fee demands.
- Why do I have to pay for channels I never watch?
TV service providers like Suddenlink are often required by contract to carry both the most-popular and least-popular cable networks. In turn, if we ask for a price for just the most-popular networks, a common response from channel owners is to raise their price, effectively eliminating this option from consideration.
Here’s a hypothetical scenario to help illustrate the situation: Imagine that, under its current contract, a certain TV channel owner is receiving a total of $4.00 per customer per month for three channels. Only one of those three channels is highly rated. In negotiating a new contract, the channel owner now wants $6.00 per customer per month for the same three channels. When asked what the price would be for just the one highly rated channel, the owner responds that it will be $6.50. In other words, the channel owner demands $6.00 for three channels (a 50% increase over its current fees) or $6.50 for one channel (a 62.5% increase). That leaves the TV provider with little option but to buckle down and seek a lower rate for all three channels, two of which you may never watch.