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What you need to know about the Spectrum dispute with Fox Sports Kansas City

Games could be blacked out tonight for some fans

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

You may have heard that Spectrum subscribers in Kansas City are in jeopardy of losing Fox Sports Kansas City, which airs Royals games. Spectrum and Fox have been negotiating in a contract dispute for eight months, with a supposed deadline set for last Friday. The two sides agreed to extend talks to this week, and last night, a 24-hour extension was agreed upon, but that still puts tonight’s Royals-Athletics game at jeopardy. What exactly does this mean for Royals fans?

What is the dispute over?

The dispute is over carriage fees, a common dispute between cable and satellite providers and television stations. Cable and satellite providers have to pay a fee to television stations for the right to carry that channel. When Charter purchased Time Warner Cable last year, they paid the going rate of those contracts. But while the content distributors wanted fees to remain the same, Charter, which has rebranded Time Warner Cable as “Spectrum”, wanted to impose its own fee structure.

The dispute has caused Fox to threaten to pull content from Charter Spectrum in an attempt to leverage the negotiations.

“Fox and Charter Spectrum have an agreement to carry the Fox networks that Charter has chosen to ignore,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement. “We are disappointed that despite our best efforts over many months to resolve the situation without disruption, Charter’s 16 million subscribers may lose access to a wide variety of programming...

This does not affect the Fox broadcast channel, or even Fox News, but it would cause a blackout for Spectrum subscribers for channels like FX, National Geographic Channel, Fox Sports 1, and regional Fox sports network channels like Fox Sports Kansas City.

Fox has launched a media campaign to curry public favor, setting up a website to warn viewers of the impending blackout. Spectrum has responded.

“Fox is trying to gouge our customers using the increasingly common tactic of threats and removal of programming,” a Charter spokesperson said in a statement. “They are attempting to extort Charter for hundreds of millions of dollars. We will continue to work towards a fair agreement.​”

Spectrum had a similar standoff with NBC Universal last year, settling the dispute two weeks after a proposed deadline without a disruption of service for viewers. Kansas City Dish Network subscribers did lose WDAF Channel 4 last year for a week, and Time Warner Cable subscribers in Kansas City temporarily lost KMBC Channel 9 in 2012 in a similar standoff.

Who is affected?

The deal affects just Spectrum subscribers, but it affects all 16 million Spectrum subscribers across the country. It is not just Fox Sports Kansas City that could be blacked out for baseball fans, but other regional sports networks like Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports Ohio, and Fox Sports Midwest, which carries St. Louis Cardinals games.

What are my options?

Frequently, it seems these disputes are resolved before any programming is blacked out, so you may want to hold off on cancelling your subscription to Spectrum. Even if there is a blackout, it will likely only be for a week or two. However, if you want to avoid the loss of Royals baseball, you could change cable providers. This may not be an option in all markets, or if you are locked into a contract, and the same issue may come up in a few months on another provider.

You could cut the cord entirely, and work around the cable and satellite providers. Companies like Sling TV or PlayStation Vue offer streaming services that carry smaller channel lineups than other providers for a lower cost. Both include Fox Sports Kansas City in the Kansas City market with certain packages. You can watch the game on your phone or tablet, or hook up a streaming device to your television.

You can also follow along on the Royals Radio Network, including 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City, and we promise never to blackout our gamethreads on Royals Review.