FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Some television viewers in Fairfield County found themselves without local CBS programming on Saturday after WFSB/Channel 3 was dropped from the Optimum channel lineup in a financial dispute.
In a statement posted on its website , WFSB said Optimum from Altice was to blame for the loss of the local CBS programming for its viewers in Fairfield County. Optimum customers in Litchfield County and New Haven County were left without any CBS programming at all after WFSB was pulled.
In Fairfield County, that means viewers cannot see the local WFSB programming such as the local news. But other CBS programming — including the broadcast of the Patriots vs. Texans in an NFL playoff game — could be watched on WCBS, which is still carried by the cable provider in Fairfield County.
"By law, cable companies must negotiate in good faith with television stations before dropping the TV stations’ signals. WFSB has been trying for months to get Optimum from Altice to negotiate seriously," the statement said. "But after its transaction with Altice, Optimum is now part of one of the world's largest cable giants. ... Optimum from Altice has not reached an agreement to carry WFSB."
WFSB is still carried on DISH, DIRECTV, and other subscribers, as well as on other cable companies.
But Altice blamed WFSB’s parent company, Merdeith Corp., which wants "an outrageous increase in retransmission fees,” and dropped the channel, according to a post on the company's website . "Optimum wanted to keep WFSB on and offered a fair market price, higher than we pay today, to continue to carry it. Unfortunately, that was not enough."
Politicians got in on the dispute Saturday, saying that negotiators for WFSB and Optimum failed to reach a settlement Friday night over the fees.
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (both Connecticut Democrats) called on the network and cable company to put their customers first and come to an agreement.
“I urge both sides to resolve this impasse immediately because it is a disservice to Connecticut consumers caught in the middle, who deserve to be put first. Until a resolution is reached, I urge WFSB to restore local programming that includes local sporting events, such as this weekend’s Patriots playoff game, as well as emergency alerts, local news and weather information,” Blumenthal said in a statement.
Murphy said he doesn't typically get involved in such disputes. "But I haven’t been pleased with Altice’s commitment to Connecticut since it bought Cablevision,” Murphy said. “I have been in contact with senior executives at Altice and Meredith Corp. and urged them to resolve this dispute as soon as possible. As we speak, Connecticut families who paid their cable bills are being left in the dark. I hope both companies will agree in good faith to put Connecticut consumers first.”