Northwest CEO accuses Charter’s Rutledge of ‘weaponizing subscribers to do his dirty work’

Charter van
(Ben Munson)

Northwest Broadcasting CEO Brian Brady issued a lengthy letter describing his company’s dealings with Charter and accusing the company and its CEO, Tom Rutledge, of weaponizing its subscribers in a retransmission revenue dispute.

Over the weekend, 11 Northwest affiliates were blacked out on Charter, causing customers in markets including Yuma, Arizona, and Eureka, California, to miss the Super Bowl.

Charter is alleging that Northwest demanded a “ridiculous” 75% increase in retransmission fees.

“They are demanding to be paid more than what we pay any other broadcast station for the same services,” Charter said in a statement. “This is simply how Northwest operates. They have pulled their channels from nearly all distributors over the recent years as a negotiating tactic.”

RELATED: Charter blacked out by 11 Northwest Broadcasting affiliates

Brady, while stopping short of revealing how much Northwest was asking for in its negotiations with Charter, detailed discussions his company had with the cable operator. Brady said that two weeks before the Jan. 31 contract expiration date, Charter notified Northwest that it would not counter the broadcaster’s proposal. He said that Charter then asked on Jan. 31 why Northwest had not responded to its proposal. Brady said that though Northwest was the last company to issue a written proposal, it sent another proposal, “knowing it was negotiating against itself,” and offered to extend the deadline until Friday.

Brady said Charter sent a counter on Friday but that Northwest wanted time to work on it, so it offered to extend the deadline until Saturday. He said Charter requested the deadline be moved to Monday, after the Super Bowl, to which Northwest reiterated a Saturday deadline.

“Their next response was, ‘we are taking your station down in the next 10 minutes’ and they hung up the phone. We haven't heard from them since,” Brady wrote.

Brady said his company was caught off guard by the volume of emails and calls it received due to the Northwest Fair Deal website set up by Charter. He said that his company received thousands of emails from subscribers telling Northwest that Charter said the broadcaster had instructed Charter to take down the stations.

“How do you defend yourself when a multibillion-dollar company lies and then has the audacity to call you a liar? The only way I know how is to continue to shed light on the truth. So I continued to speak with as many subscribers as possible and answered their email. We also posted a message to our web pages to refute what they were saying about us,” Brady wrote.

He went on to criticize Rutledge for using Charter’s subscribers as pawns in the negotiations and for causing subscribers to miss out on events like the Super Bowl while he was “most likely sitting in a luxury box in Minneapolis enjoying the game.”

“Why is this happening, people ask? Because Tom Rutledge, the president and CEO of the second largest cable company on the planet, doesn't care about and has no respect for you. He only cares that he can use you as one more weapon in negotiating with our company while you continue to pay for the substandard service most of you have described to me,” Brady wrote.