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Illulstration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Cable and satellite companies are struggling to reach deals with TV channels over how much they should have to pay for the content those channels provide.

Why it matters: These disputes, driven by a shrinking traditional TV market, are leading to more programming blackouts for consumers, and could be forcing some smaller, niche cable channels out of business altogether.

Driving the news: Both Comcast and Verizon FiOS (Verizon's cable arm) announced ahead of the New Year that they will drop Fuse, the music-oriented cable channel that's backed by Jennifer Lopez, on Dec. 31.

  • Comcast said Fuse is "similar to content that also is available on other networks" that it carries, like BET or Pop. Verizon said Fuse was getting too expensive for the viewership it was driving.
  • Fuse CEO Michael Schwimmer alluded to a recently-expired Department of Justice consent decree from the 2011 Comcast/NBCU merger as part of Comcast's decision to drop the channel. He said Verizon's actions were "inconsistent" with its public posture regarding diversity.

Between the lines: Fuse isn't the only content provider to lose or risk losing distribution as telecom companies reevaluate what content to include in bundles.

  • FiOS and Disney came very close to being unable to reach an agreement ahead of the New Year's Day deadline, avoiding what would have been a programming blackout of Disney channels, including ESPN, for consumers.
  • So did Charter’s Spectrum and Tribune Media. The companies agreed to extend a New Year's Day deadline to renegotiate their contract to this Wednesday, dodging what would have been a programming blackout of lots of local TV stations for millions of Spectrum customers across the U.S.
  • Dish Network has yet to reach an agreement after several months with both Univision and HBO over distribution costs. Dish CEO Charlie Ergen told analysts in August that the dispute between Dish and Univision is "probably permanent."

The big picture: The rise of cord-cutting (people ditching cable packages for cheaper digital options) is beginning to reduce financial margins at cable and satellite providers, and channels that aren't driving a lot of viewership are paying the price.

  • Be smart: Small niche channels, like Fuse, are the most susceptible to being dropped.

Go deeper

SoCalGas agrees to $1.8 billion settlement for 2015 gas blowout

An evacuee with a Save Porter Ranch sign outside Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon gate in Porter Ranch in January 2016 as the gas leak continued. Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Southern California Gas Company and its parent company announced Monday they've agreed to pay up to $1.8 billion in settlement claims over the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility blowout.

Why it matters: Some 100,000 tons of methane, ethane and toxic chemicals poured into the air for 112 days, forcing over 8,000 families to evacuate from their Los Angeles-area homes and sickening thousands of others with headaches, nausea and nosebleeds, per the L.A. Times.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

North Korea fires short-range missile to sea, slams "hostile" U.S. policy

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday that North Korea's military had fired a short-range missile toward its eastern sea, per AP.

Why it matters: North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations defended the latest launch in remarks to the UN General Assembly, demanding the U.S. and South Korea end their "hostile policy" against the country.

Arizona Judge: Adding mask mandates ban to budget bill unconstitutional

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An Arizona judge ruled Monday that the state's ban on mask mandates in schools, and other measures put into the state budget by Republicans, are unconstitutional, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The sweeping ruling voids a ban on vaccine requirements for public universities, community colleges and local governments, and strikes down some non-COVID-related measures like a ban on teaching critical race theory in classrooms and anti-fraud measures for ballots.