Comcast could lose Comcast-owned channels in December

(Logo: Comcast/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

Comcast is warning customers that some of its own channels may disappear from its cable television service in December.

In a notice mailed to customers with their most-recent bills and posted online, Comcast said its agreement to carry dozens of local and national channels will expire at the end of the year.

Among the affected channels are Bravo, CNBC, E!, the Golf Channel, MSNBC, the Olympic Channel, Oxygen, Syfy, Telemundo, Universal Kids, NBC Universo and the USA Network as well as the NBC Sports Network and six regional NBC Sports-branded networks. New England Cable News is also among the affected channels that could be dropped.

In addition to the cable networks, Comcast says NBC owned-and-operated stations, including KNBC (Channel 4) in Los Angeles, KNTV (Channel 11) in San Jose and WNBC (Channel 4) in New York, are affected by the lapsing contract.

Carriage disputes are not unusual in the pay television industry — cable and satellite companies have found themselves at the center of these events in recent years as programmers demand more money for channels and distributors seek to ease the rising cost of subscription fees that their customers are asked to pay.

But the Comcast situation is unusual because the cable giant owns NBC Universal and the channels that are slated to be dropped. The channels are carried under an agreement negotiated between the cable service and its subsidiary broadcast and cable network group.

“Comcast has successfully renegotiated thousands of expiring contracts over the years and rarely experienced an interruption of service,” a statement included with the notice said. “However, it is possible that contracts for the channels listed below will not be renewed, in which case Comcast would no longer have the right to carry those channels on our systems.”

It seems unlikely Comcast won’t be able to reach an agreement with itself before its own contract regarding the channels it owns is set to expire. But any rate Comcast sets for itself could influence how much the cable distributor charges its rivals like AT&T, Charter/Spectrum and Dish Network for carriage of its broadcast and cable networks on those platforms.

Like other pay TV companies, Comcast is legally required to notify customers of any possible loss of channels due to an expiring contract within a certain amount of time as mandated by the Federal Communications Commission.

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