News Corp. deal with Dish Network may increase heat to get Cablevision fight settled
News Corp.'s reaching a deal with satellite broadcaster Dish Network that includes not only 19 regional sports networks, but also Fox television stations across the country, could put more pressure on Cablevision and Fox to reach a deal.
The deal between Dish, which has 14.3 million subscribers, and News Corp. was finalized Friday afternoon and came a month after Fox pulled the signals of its sports channels as well as other cable channels, including FX. It came just when Dish's deal to carry Fox TV stations, including KTTV-TV Los Angeles, was expiring.
It is likely that Fox will look to use its deal with Dish as evidence that it is Cablevision Systems Corp. that is being unreasonable in their dispute. Fox pulled the signals of its New York and Philadelphia TV stations from roughly 3 million Cablevision homes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut two weeks ago.
The talks are still at a standstill. Cablevision wants an arbitrator brought in to help strike a deal, a move that Fox is against. Although there has been pressure from both politicians and Cablevision on the Federal Communications Commission to try to force Fox to accept arbitration and/or restore the signals on a temporary basis, the agency is keeping its distance. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has chided both companies for spending more time attacking each other and lobbying lawmakers than trying to cut a deal.
That Fox was able to reach an agreement with Dish Network, which like Cablevision is known in the media industry for being a tough negotiator, may bolster Fox's argument that there is no need for a third-party mediator or some sort of government intervention.
In a statement about the Dish deal, Genachowski said he urges "Fox and Cablevision to complete their negotiations and end the impasse that has disrupted service to viewers.” The chairman also sent a letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who is proposing new regulations that would give the FCC more clout in these disputes, saying that he agrees that it is time to revise the rules.
"Under the present system, the FCC has very few tools with which to protect consumers' interests ... it is time for Congress to revisit the current retransmission law and assess whether changes in the marketplace call for new tools to strike the appropriate balance of private negotiations and consumer protection," he wrote to Kerry.
-- Joe Flint