NBCUniversal Media, a U.S.-based mass media conglomerate, has blocked access to Telemundo and NBC Puerto Rico because Liberty Puerto Rico did not accept a rate increase that would see retransmission for these channels more than double over two years, the television provider said.
At 6 p.m., NBCUniversal also removed 13 other channels from Liberty’s lineup which include CNBC, CNBC World News, Bravo, E!, MSNBC, NBCSN, NBC Universo, Punto2, Oxygen, Universal Kids, SyFy, Golf and USA Network.
“After years of cooperation and several months of discussions, we are disappointed to see NBCUniversal use their size and scale to bully a local provider and put our customers in the middle of negotiations,” said Naji Khoury, president of Liberty Puerto Rico.
“NBCUniversal is attempting to charge penalizing retransmission fees for Telemundo and NBC Puerto Rico that would see the cost for these channels doubling over two years,” he said.
When the channels went dark, reactions from customers were quick to pop up on social media, particularly Twitter, with dozens threatening to drop Liberty if they are not restored.
“These rates are essentially in line with U.S. market levels, which are much higher than what would be considered fair for a market like Puerto Rico. You also have to remember that Telemundo (channel 2) and NBC Puerto Rico are available in our market over the air, for free, with the use of an antenna,” he said.
Khoury reiterated that Liberty is on the side of providing value and simplicity to its customers and wanted to keep all NBC Universal channels in its video lineup, but the company cannot charge the same monthly fees to customers in the Puerto Rico market as cable operators in the United States do.
Companies like NBCUniversal compensate for their losses from advertising revenues by charging pay tv providers higher retransmission fees every year. The rates proposed by NBCUniversal have been multiplied by six in the last decade, while the audience of these networks has gone down, according to Nielsen.
Liberty is “hopeful about getting the channels back on their lineup if NBCUniversal proposes an agreement that is of value to both parties and customers, in line with the reality of the Puerto Rico market,” he said.
NBCUniversal and Liberty have been able to reach retransmission agreements through the years, with no service interruption for customers, but the situation in Puerto Rico “is very different at this time as Liberty is recovering, together with the island, from the massive challenges and investments that have been made to rebuild after hurricanes Irma and María,” Khoury said.
“We were hoping to resolve this matter before getting to this point and will continue to engage constructively with NBCUniversal to bring back these channels. We reaffirm our commitment to our customers and to the island of Puerto Rico,” Khoury added.