As is typical with warnings like these, the issue stems from the forthcoming expiration of a contractual agreement between Hearst and Verizon over fees paid for the right to bring local channels to Verizon’s Fios TV customers.
Customers in five metropolitan television markets could be affected by the dispute if Verizon and Hearst don’t reach a new agreement before January 1, 2021 or extend their current agreement while negotiations continue.
The stations affected by the contract are as follows:
- WTAE (Channel 4, ABC) in Pittsburgh
- WTAE-DT2 (Channel 4.2, Cozi TV) in Pittsburgh
- WBAL (Channel 11, NBC) in Baltimore
- WBAL-DT2 (Channel 11.2, MeTV) in Baltimore
- WGAL (Channel 8, NBC) in Harrisburg, PA
- WGAL-DT2 (Channel 8.2, MeTV) in Harrisburg, PA
- WMUR (Channel 9, ABC) in Manchester, NH
- WCVB (Channel 5, ABC) in Boston
- WCVB-DT2 (Channel 5.2, MeTV) in Boston
Hearst stations were not running notices for Verizon Fios TV customers on their local station websites as of Tuesday evening.
Verizon, on the other hand, has gone on the offense, charging Hearst with threatening to remove local channels “while millions of Americans are struggling” and during the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic when many are turning to local news for information.
“We negotiate hundreds of these agreements each year and, while we are able to reach mutually agreeable terms with the majority of our programming partners prior to any service disruptions, sometimes broadcasters and cable networks demand unacceptable price increases,” a Verizon Fios spokesperson said, adding that any increase in fees for Verizon would eventually be passed on to customers in the form of higher bills.