Q. I read today that Comcast will lose all the NBC channels soon because it doesn’t have a contract to carry them. Do you know exactly when that will happen? I will get rid of Comcast if that happens? — Rich, Boston.
Rich, several web sites yesterday published stories suggesting Comcast, which owns NBC, could lose all NBC-owned channels in December, including network affiliates in select markets, NBC Sports regional channels, Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, USA Network, Syfy, and MSNBC
The stories noted that Comcast has issued a viewer alert saying the channels could be removed because the current agreement to carry them is scheduled to expire in December.
But despite the alert, and despite the stories, Comcast will not lose the NBC channels. Trust me on this. It won’t happen and the articles are needlessly making Comcast subscribers anxious that it might happen.
Let me explain.
The FCC requires Comcast, and other cable TV operators, to inform subscribers “as soon as possible” that a carriage agreement is about to expire and therefore, theoretically, could result in a channel removal. The rule once said the cable service had to do this within 30 days of when the contract would end, but the agency last month changed that to “as soon as possible.”
Over the years, cable TV providers have routinely posted these notices 30-60 days in advance of when an agreement might end. Even with the rule change, they are continuing to do this. Either old habits die hard, or the cable operators don’t want to risk irritating federal regulators. Post the notice and no one can say you’re trying to hide anything.
“In the next few months, our contracts for the channels listed below may expire,” Comcast states at its site. “We expect that we will be able to reach an agreement with the owners of these channels to continue carrying them well into the future. Comcast has successfully renegotiated thousands of expiring contracts over the years and rarely experienced an interruption of service. 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.”
The current list includes the NBC-owned channels because the carriage agreement expires in December. (Pay TV operators must have a carriage agreement to carry a channel, even when it owns the channel, as Comcast owns the NBC channels.)
But the agreement between Comcast and its NBC channels is a mere formality. The cable operator ultimately decides the terms of the ‘deal’ because it owns the channels. Consequently, there’s no scenario — none! — in which Comcast could lose any of the NBC channels, much less all of them.
So Rich, there’s nothing to worry about it.
Hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann