Fox and satellite service Dish Network were closing in on a midnight Thursday deadline to strike a new agreement that would keep FX, National Geographic Channel and a host of regional sports networks on the air. As of Thursday evening, the two sides were still chipping away on a new contract and it was unclear whether News Corp.'s Fox would pull its channels from the programming packages of Dish's more than 14 million customers.
The Fox broadcast network is not included in the current tussle, although it will become the centerpiece of a separate dispute between the two companies over a contract set to expire Oct. 31. Not coincidentally, that date falls during Major League Baseball's World Series, which Fox televises.
For now, the stakes are lower. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels are scheduled to finish their seasons this weekend with games broadcast by the Fox regional sports channels, Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West. Dish subscribers would miss out if Fox pulls the channels. Dish subscribers would also have to skip "The Dog Whisperer" on Friday on the National Geographic Channel, and "Sons of Anarchy" on Tuesday on FX, if the dispute dragged into next week.
Contentious contract negotiations have become a trend in the television industry as programmers struggle to hike fees to try to cover the rising costs of programming.
Cable and satellite television providers are trying to hang tough to mollify their customers, who are tired of ever-rising cable bills and now have other pay TV options.
Already this year, Walt Disney Co. pulled its programming from New York cable giant Cablevision for several hours on the day the Academy Awards were broadcast, and the Hallmark Channel has been off AT&T U-Verse for nearly a month.
Fox and Cablevision also are headed for an Oct. 15 showdown -- which could cause plenty of angst for fans of the playoff-bound New York Yankees. If no agreement is reached, Cablevision would lose the right to carry the Fox broadcast network as well as two tiny channels, National Geographic Wild and the Fox Business Network.
The Fox News Channel is not part of either of these disputes.
-- Meg James
Photo by Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles Times