Shutdowns appear to be contagious.
A spat between a cable company and the owner of Cleveland's WJW (Channel 8) has resulted in the Fox affiliate being pulled off the airwaves for Spectrum subscribers.
Tribune Broadcasting, which owns Fox 8 Cleveland and 32 other stations in 23 markets across the country, said in a news release Wednesday evening that its stations became unavailable to Spectrum customers after a contract expired at 5 p.m. The outage affects about 6 million viewers.
Each side in the dispute invited customers to vent their anger to the other party.
In place of regular programming on WJW's spot in the channel lineup, Spectrum aired messages explaining that "the owner of this Fox channel has removed their programming to create hardship for our customers, while we are negotiating in good faith to reach a fair agreement."
In a series of screens that pour out grievances directly to subscribers, Spectrum says: "Tribune is demanding a ridiculous increase — they want us to pay 3x our current rate to carry the same programming!" and adds that the company is "driven by greed."
An alert on the Fox 8 website, meanwhile, says: "We sincerely regret that Spectrum has forced Fox 8 off your cable package" and tells viewers "you should not have to endure this interruption."
In addition to local news and prime-time programs, the blackout will block NFL playoffs and NCAA basketball if it continues into the weekend.
"We're extremely disappointed that we do not have an agreement on the renewal of our contract with Spectrum," said Gary Weitman, Tribune Media's senior vice president for corporate relations.
Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable, is owned by Charter Communications.
The companies' original deadline to avoid service interruption was Dec. 31, but they agreed to extend it two days because of the New Year's holiday.
Contract quarrels between cable companies and broadcasters crop up from time to time. In March 2017, a disagreement between AT&T's U-Verse cable and Raycom Media led to two Cleveland stations, WOIO (Channel 19) and WUAB (Channel 43), being blocked for U-Verse customers for more than a week. That blackout was particularly upsetting for viewers hoping to find NCAA men's basketball tournament coverage.