After a contentious dispute that cost its Charlotte viewers NCAA Men’s Tournament games on CBS, AT&T U-verse announced Sunday that it had reached agreement on a contract with Raycom Media and that WBTV (Channel 3) had returned to its cable lineup.
A settlement was announced only hours before the No. 1 UNC Tar Heels faced off against the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16 game and meant that other CBS programming, such as the popular “60 Minutes” news magazine, returns to U-verse customers.
Friday’s UNC game against No. 4 Butler was blacked out as Raycom and AT&T U-verse criticized each other over the delay in reaching a contract to carry WBTV and Raycom stations in Charlotte and 22 other cities.
“AT&T and Raycom Media have reached a new agreement that will result in WBTV returning into U-verse customers’ homes immediately,” the cable provider said in a statement. “We look forward to a productive future relationship with Raycom that meets our customers’ greater expectations.”
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Watch a timelapse as the North Carolina bench reacts after the Tar Heels' Luke Maye hit a three-pointer during UNC's victory over Butler in the NCAA Tournament South Regional semifinal at FedExForum in Memphis, TN Friday, March 24, 2017. Maye hit three 3-pointers and had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the victory. Ethan Hymanehyman@newsobserver.com
Pat LaPlatney, Raycom’s president, apologized to viewers in a statement.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that restores our Raycom Media station’s signals on the AT&T U-Verse system,” he said. “We apologize to our viewers for this inconvenience, and appreciate their patience during the impasse.”
WBTV continued to be carried on the region’s dominant cable system – Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable – and was available through other cable systems and satellite providers during the blackout.
At the heart of the dispute was how much AT&T was willing to pay Raycom to carry its stations. Station groups, arguing that their network content and local news is of prime importance to the cable audience and that their programming costs and licensing fees are ever rising, have been pressuring carriers to pay more.
But cable systems and satellite services, trying to keep a lid on price increases to customers, have been bargaining for lower costs.
No details on the settlement were made public, as is common in such negotiations.