Thousands of Spectrum television subscribers in West Michigan have been without local Fox Network affiliate FOX 17 for several days due to a contract dispute between the cable provider and the station's parent company Tribune Broadcasting. Along with FOX 17, Tribune stations have been taken off the air in 23 other Spectrum markets across the U.S., affecting over 16 million customers. The national channel WGN America has also been removed in all Spectrum markets.

Along with local news broadcasts and FOX prime time programming, high profile sporting events like the NFL playoffs couldn't be viewed and angered customers caught up in the middle of the dispute. Last weekend, Spectrum subscribers missed the FOX broadcasts of the opening round of NFL playoff games, including markets where those games were being played in Indianapolis and Seattle. FOX is scheduled to broadcast more NFL playoff games over the next couple of weeks, and if the dispute continues, even higher profile games will not be shown locally on FOX 17.

Imagine if the Detroit Lions happened to be making a playoff run during all of this and the games weren't even on television? (No, really, your going to have to use your imagination on this one).

Spectrum has called the dispute “unfortunate” and has replaced the local TV channels with an on-screen message informing subscribers about the status of the dispute. FOX 17 posted an open letter on their website from Tribune Media Chief Executive Officer Peter Kern to viewers and Spectrum subscribers.

Thank you for reaching out to Tribune and for your passion for our content. I wish I could respond to each of you individually on your particular comments about our dispute with Spectrum, but the volume of email makes that impossible.

We at Tribune Media are deeply disappointed that you have been unable to enjoy our top-rated news, sports, and entertainment programming via Spectrum’s cable systems. Throughout these negotiations we have worked tirelessly to try to make sure our programming was available to you on an uninterrupted basis.

Spectrum’s acts since the disruption began have given you a false picture of our negotiation. We are not asking for triple or double the rates for our programming. We are asking only for a fair deal, one that is comparable to what every other cable and satellite TV provider pays us for our content.

Spectrum, on the other hand, is a huge goliath of a company with over $43 billion in annual revenue and over $10 billion in annual profits—it is using its scale and all of you to try to pressure us to take less than a fair price. The reality is that what Spectrum is saying on TV and online about our negotiations is simply false.

Spectrum believes that as a much smaller company, we will give in to their tactics. Unfortunately, doing that would leave us with fewer resources to invest in programming for you. We have tried to take the high road – we have not called them names or accused them of anything. But, at our heart, we are an information company and we don’t want our viewers misinformed any longer.

We will keep working to resolve this situation and we will keep fighting to bring you great content. We want nothing more than to have a good working relationship with Spectrum and to get our channels back on the air at a fair price.

Thank you for your time, and for your loyalty to the programming we work so hard to bring you. We hope to have it restored soon.

The dispute reportedly involves “retransmission fees”, which is a fee providers (cable, satellite, etc.) pay to television broadcasters to include channels in their broadcast lineup. There is no indication or reports that any progress is being made in the dispute.