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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

DOJ cites discrimination in lawsuit against Texas over voting districts

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas, alleging Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Black and Latino voters and has "again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans" when they approved new redistricting maps.

Why it matters: A DOJ assessment of the new districts found that they violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference.

2 hours ago - World

Biden to warn Putin U.S. will add troops in Eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine

Putin meets Biden in Geneva. Photo: Peter Klaunzer - Pool/Keystone via Getty

President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin when they speak on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. is prepared to increase its troop presence, capabilities and military exercises on NATO's "eastern flank," a senior administration official told reporters.

Why it matters: The administration believes it's increasingly likely that Putin will order an invasion.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.