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Unable to reach a deal, Fox stations are knocked off of Cablevision Systems

Unable to strike a new deal, the signals of News Corp.'s Fox television stations in New York and Philadelphia disappeared from roughly 3 million Cablevision Systems Corp. homes at midnight on the East Coast.

Fox and Cablevision have been unsuccessfully trying to come to terms on a new deal to keep the New York stations WNYW and WWOR on the cable operator's systems in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut regions. Also gone from Cablevision Systems in New Jersey is the signal of Fox's Philadelphia station. The dispute includes some Fox cable channels but not the Fox News channel.

Both sides blamed the other for the signals coming off while the Federal Communications Commission expressed disappointment that no deal could be struck and that consumers would be left in the lurch. Earlier Friday, the FCC asked both companies to consider extending their talks and agreeing to have an independent mediator try to resolve their dispute. Cablevision said it was willing to do so. Fox said it was not interested in going that route. Talks between the two companies are expected to resume tomorrow afternoon.

Left in the lurch are subscribers who, if the impasse continues, will miss Fox's coverage of NFL football and the National League Championship Series, which features the Philadelphia Phillies. Fox also carries the World Series, which could include the New York Yankees. In other words, if a deal isn't struck soon, it could get very ugly.

Fox blasted Cablevision after the deadline passed, noting that this was the third time this year that a programmer's signals went off Cablevision Systems because of a dispute over programming fees.

"After days of posturing and the appearance of negotiating, they formally stopped even the pretense of negotiating at 8 p.m. –- declaring an “impasse” -– and made no further efforts toward reaching a new agreement before the expiration,” said Mike Hopkins, president of affiliate sales and marketing for Fox Networks.

Cablevision countered that News Corp. has "refused to negotiate in good faith and rejected calls from dozens of political leaders to not pull the plug and join Cablevision in binding arbitration." Charles Schueler, an executive vice president said the company demands that "News Corp. put the viewers ahead of its own greed and immediately restore these channels to our customers and agree to binding arbitration to reach a fair agreement." He then added: "What is News Corp. afraid of?”

In ads critical of News Corp. and Fox, Cablevision is saying that it currently pays $70 million a year for various Fox channels and now is being asked for $150 million. Fox has countered that Cablevision pays itself $124 million a year for its MSG sports channels, which generally have much smaller audiences than those of WNYW and WWOR.

According to people familiar with the talks, Fox wants a deal that will eventually see its channels get in the neighborhood of $1 per subscriber, per month. The long-term deal would probably start at roughly 50 cents per subscriber. A person close to Cablevision says one issue is what Fox wants for several small cable channels, such as Fox Business and National Geographic Channel, as part of a deal for the Fox stations.

"News Corp. is continuing to demand more for Fox 5 than Cablevision pays all of the other broadcast stations combined," Cablevision said.

Fox brass countered that the deal being offered to Cablevision is the same that Time Warner Cable and others have.

Both News Corp. and Cablevision are lining up political support. Several New York and New Jersey politicians were critical of Fox and asking the FCC to intervene. However there were also members of Congress telling the FCC to let the two companies resolve this on their own without government intervention.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski noted that "each year, thousands of agreements between broadcasters and pay-TV providers are reached without interruption of customer viewing" and added that he remains "hopeful that these two companies will do what is in the best interest of consumers and find a way quickly to resolve their differences."

-- Joe Flint


Comments () | Archives (41)

What about my Lakers?

Actually, I was wondering if my cable company might remove fox from their regular programs, so this make things much easier.

Fox News is a rag invented in the 90's to sour voters against Democrats. Nothing more, nothing less.

Take away Fox and our country immediately becomes a more reasonable and informed country.

Give me Football! Ax Fox worthless news!

Cable is about to die, on the positive side it is is great network for downloading and streaming movies/shows, etc.

The model is flipping almost as fast as channel surfers are moving to internet based entertainment.

Why should the Faux Corp. negotiate in good faith? There are sooo many other options for consumers other than cable. Fox knows their position and is fully willing to exert even more control and influence. This is Capitalism, isn't it? Rules are made to be broken and manipulated to ones advantage. And the Republicants insist upon complete market deregulation because they can always solve their own problems. Consumers are nothing but a disposable chess piece to be manipulated at their whim. Oh, and Uncle Rupert is an immigrant who has no allegiance to anyone but himself and his business interests. If we were to revoke his citizenship there are many other countries willing to welcome him with open arms. For Ruppy there is no downside to controlling this ballgame.

Rupert is the devil. Make all his stations and networks go away. I love how these cable / satellite companies are made to be the bad guy. Dump all things Fox...

What a crock'o hooey, Fox. And not very patriotic.

The less Fox in this world, the better. $1 a pop per provider per subscriber equals EXTORTION. You wanna see your TV subscription rates go through the roof? You wanna see monthly bills in the $100-200 range? Keep watching Fox.

Good! Hope they stay off.

ahhh...too bad the news station isnt't knocked out - a world without fox is like an extra Xmas gift!

A disgrace for all parties involved and the FCC should never allow this to happen.

Is this important to anyone but the shock network Fox?

If what Cablevision says is true then I think they are doing the right thing. We are still in an economic crisis and customers pay enough for the services. If they gave in the customers would have to pay more.

I'd been contemplating cancelling my 10-year-old DirecTV service due to its large % of News Corp channels when I heard about the latter's political contributions. DTV was gone the next day and after several weeks hasn't been missed at all. In fact it's been liberating: more reading and music and quiet time. I hadn't realize what a pile of foul, easy-to-reach donuts DTV had been in my life.

It's also been fun the past few days exploring the (surprised to be discovered) internet capabilities of the new LED LCD TV I had recently bought to replace my power-hog plasma. A lot more control over what I see and pay for, more choices, and a lot less money.

Later on DirecTV, News Corp, Dish, Time Warner, and the rest who would decide to whom I pay to have access to watch. Later much.

In the end we are going to pay the price for these greedy networks.

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