Central New Yorkers the losers as cable company and broadcaster feud

If you wanted to watch “The Resident” or “Lucifer” on Monday night, tough. The primetime FOX shows were among the casualties as Northwest Broadcasting and Charter Communications, aka Spectrum, fought over a contract renewal and pulled the plug on the network broadcasts.

Who pulled the plug? Northwest or Spectrum? Does it matter?

Cable or satellite companies, which must pay local broadcasters to carry network affiliates and other local channels, and the local or regional media companies who own the broadcasters, often disagree about what’s a fair price, and contract negotiations sometimes come to a head at renewal time. Cable and satellite companies like Spectrum or DISH Network want to pay broadcasters as little as possible per channel, since they have to deliver dozens or hundreds of channels to subscribers. Broadcasters, of course, want to get paid as much as possible.

Spectrum says Northwest Broadcasting, who operate FOX 68 WSYT and My43 WNYS through their Bristlecone Broadcasting subsidiary, as well as other local channels in other markets, pulled the channels from Spectrum subscribers after “demanding a ridiculous increase in programming fees,” which Spectrum says amount to “more than we pay any other broadcast station for the same services.”

Northwest says Spectrum, which took over Time Warner Cable in Central New York, abruptly took down the local stations after Northwest had offered an extension so the two companies could continue to work on a deal. Brian Brady, president and CEO of Northwest, says Tom Rutledge, president and CEO of Spectrum, wants to use subscribers “as one more weapon in negotiating with our company while you continue to pay for the substandard service most of you have described to me.”

“For the most part these negotiations are private matters that companies work through without involving or disrupting subscribers,” says Brady.

Brady’s message for viewers adds that many can view WSYT and WNYS, as well as other major broadcast network affiliates in the area, with a digital antenna. The Ithaca area’s hills make for spotty over-the-air television reception, but some area residents can tune in the programming with an antenna or other means.

Spectrum and Northwest each hope viewers will get fed up with the other. Spectrum suggests customers contact Syracuse station manager Don O’Connor at doconnor@foxsyracuse.com or 315-634-5193, or Brady at brady@northwestbroadcasting.com or 517-347-4141, and Northwest encourages viewers to contact Spectrum’s Rutledge at tom.rutledge@chartercom.com or 203-905-7999.

For more, follow 14850.com on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our newsletter.